You may not know his name, but you’ve probably eaten his creation: two beef patties, lettuce, pickles, cheese, onions, and special sauce on a sesame seed bun. That’s right, the Big Mac!
Jim Delligatti, the McDonald’s franchisee who came up with the Big Mac about 50 years ago and saw it become the best-known fast-food sandwich on the planet, died Monday at home in Pittsburgh. Delligatti, who ate at least one 540-calorie Big Mac a week for years, was 98.
Delligatti’s franchise was in Uniontown, nearby Pittsburgh when he created the chain’s signature burger in 1967 after discovering customers wanted a larger sandwich. Deman expanded as Delligatti’s sandwich spread to the other 47 stores in Pennsylvania. They put the Big Mac on the national menu in 1968.
His son, Michael Delligatti, says his dad was frequently questioned about the origins of the name “Big Mac”. He would reply saying that “Big Mc” sounded hilarious!
In 2006, Jim Delligatti said that at first, McDonald’s opposed the new burger because their array of items were selling well on their own. It seems they figured, why go to something else if the original menu was working so well?
Over 100 countries have sold billions of Big Macs. When the Big Mac met is 40th year, amazingly McDonald’s was selling nearly 550 million Big Macs a year. That’s roughly 17 sold every second! Delligatti didn’t receive payment or royalties for creating the burger.
Jim Delligatti’s genius was simple. He listened to customers who also wanted a bigger burger.
In franchising, there’s always a set playbook that you must follow. Jim saw an opportunity outside of the playbook because he knew the customers. He persevered, and McDonald’s listened.
Delligatti headed a four-generation family business, M&J Management, and the McDonald’s franchise organization, for over 60 years. In 1957, he opened his first McDonald’s in Pittsburgh’s North Hills suburbs. He also supported several other charities.
Delligatti also introduced breakfast at McDonald’s, developing the hotcakes and sausage meal to feed hungry steelworkers on their way home from work.
Jim Delligatti is survived by his two sons, Ellie, his wife, five grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.