Character of the Week: McDonalds Speedee
In 1940, Richard and Maurice McDonald opened the very first McDonald’s restaurant, located in San Bernardino, CA. The restaurant was a drive-in that offered a large menu, and was known for its bar-b-que items. Carhops served the food as customers sat in their cars.
In 1948, the McDonald brothers introduced the “Speedee Service System,” which was to become the model for fast-food restaurants all over the world. This featured a self-service drive-in, where customers walked up to the window to get their own food. The menu was also reduced to contain most of the items we see today, featuring hamburgers, chips, and soft drinks. French fries were introduced in 1949, along with Triple Thick Milkshakes. This smaller menu, along with the quick ways the food was prepared created maximum productivity levels in a short amount of time.
To advertise the fact that McDonald’s was so quick to serve the customer, the company chose to use Speedee as a mascot. Speedee was a little man who wore a chef’s uniform and had a hamburger-shaped face. He represented the quick and efficient service that McDonald’s provided to customers. He was usually displayed on a sign on the front of the building or on a large sign in the parking lot. Sometimes he was shown carrying a plaque reading, “I’m Here” and other times Speedee just pointed his finger at the restaurant. A few of the neon signs even featured Speedee moving his little legs, signifying his rush to serve his customers.
Speedee was the advertising mascot until 1962, when he was replaced by Ronald McDonald. This happened around the same time that Ray Kroc took over the business and formed the McDonald’s Corporation. Another reason for the change was that the McDonald’s Corporation wanted to remove any possible association that could be seen with Alka-Seltzer’s mascot, Speedy.
McDonalds restaurants have changed their appearance as well as their advertising campaigns over the years, but Speedee will remain the original mascot. It is a rarity nowadays, but some of the earlier restaurants kept Speedee on their signs. One of which is Ray Kroc’s first franchised restaurant, located in Des Plaines, Illinois. This restaurant is still operable, and is also a museum with a gift shop. One can even see a neon Speedee sign from the Topeka McDonalds on display in the Kansas Museum of History.
Original McDonalds paper cups like the one shown above are collector’s items today. Other merchandise such as coffee mugs are also collected, and if you look on eBay, you’re sure to find many memorabilia items featuring the original Speedee.