Jim Deliigatti, the man behind the iconic Big Mac burger, has passed away at age 98 Monday at his Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania residence. The McDonald’s franchisee got the idea to create a bigger sandwich in 1967, which means his gastronomic invention will be turning 50 next year.
As the story goes, Delligatti’s idea was nearly scrapped by McDonald’s itself as the company was anxious that the proposed burger might compromise the current menu offerings and affect sales. Executives reportedly thought that a costlier burger “would alienate customers.”
However, Delligatti, who opened the first McDonald’s in the western side of Pennsylvania back in 1957, ended up getting permission to test the Big Mac’s mettle in one branch (Uniontown). Delligatti owned about a dozen branches during the 60s.
The Army vet-turned entrepreneur went on to have a special bun made for his supersized burger and added a special sauce that he himself concocted. Sales rose after its introduction in April 1967.
“At one time we were the lowest-volume store of any large city,” he revealed in a past interview. “A few years after the Big Mac introduction, we became the largest — a distinction we held for a couple of years.”
Naturally, he got the green light to try the product in his other branches, which also reaped similar sales boosts. Eventually, McDonald’s rolled out the Big Mac in all branches nationwide.
The Big Mac was not the only McDonald’s product that Delligatti innovated. He also is the man behind the Sausage Meal and the Hotcakes.
Currently, about 550 million Big Macs are sold yearly in the United States, plus millions more in other countries worldwide.
The iconic and bestselling status of the Big Mac understandably creates the assumption that Delligatti received a financial boost from the inception of the said product. However, he said all he was given was a plaque, although he said he would have loved to get even just a tenth of a cent for each Big Mac sold.
When asked why it did not award Delligatti royalties for his creation, the company declined to comment.
“Jim was a legendary franchisee within McDonald’s system who made a lasting impression on our brand,” a McDonald’s HQ statement on Delligatti’s death read. “He is an exemplary individual who embraced the community and championed many causes and organizations that benefitted children. We will remember Jim as an insightful franchisee, a knowledgeable businessman, and an honorable gentleman.”