McDonald's is an American fast-food company founded in 1940. It was originally a single restaurant operated by Richard and Maurice McDonald in San Bernardino, California. The restaurant rebranded as a hamburger stand, and the company became a franchise in the following years. Today, McDonald's is not only one of the biggest fast-food chains in the world, it is also one of the most iconic corporations in the world.
The famous golden arches logo first appeared at a Phoenix, Arizona location in 1953. Ray Kroc joined McDonald's as a franchise agent in 1955 and purchased the chain from the McDonald brothers. The McDonald's headquarters is currently located in Chicago, Illinois.
McDonald's is the largest restaurant company in the world. There are over 37,000 McDonald's locations in about 120 countries around the world. The chain employs more than 1.7 million people and serves more than 70 million people. McDonald's revenues come from restaurant food sales, franchise royalties and fees, and rent (McDonald's owns the land upon which most of its restaurants are located and rents that land to the franchisee). As of March 2020, McDonald's has a market capitalization of $122.9 billion. In the fiscal year 2019, McDonald's full-year results included system-wide sales of over $100 billion and consolidated revenues of $21.1 billion.
McDonald's success as a brand comes from its affordable food, incredibly fast service, menu item selection, and strategic marketing. McDonald's jingle, "ba da ba ba ba, I'm lovin' it," is easily recognizable and known by people everywhere.
McDonald's was the first fast-food chain to serve breakfast with its well-known Egg McMuffin. McDonald's lost money for five years before serving breakfast proved profitable; however, serving breakfast has since been one of McDonald's smartest decisions. In 2015, McDonald's started serving its breakfast menu all day amid increasing demands from customers. The decision caused McDonald's sales to increase by 5% in the first years of offering breakfast all day.
Many countries that have McDonald's restaurants have different menu items that are unique to that country. For example, McDonald's customers can sink their teeth into bratwurst in Germany, McSpaghetti in the Philippines, a tempura shrimp burger in Japan, or a burger served on rice patties in Singapore. Some McDonald's locations, particularly in Europe, even serve beer.
Despite the fact that McDonald's has more than 39,000 restaurants all over the world—and adds more each year—many countries still lack even a single McDonald's restaurant. There are several possible reasons for this exclusion. Some countries lack the supply chain and infrastructure to keep a McDonald's running. Some countries are too politically unstable, or their people too impoverished, to make the required operational costs a wise investment. Some countries have a national diet too different from McDonald's menu and look down on the nutritional quality of the chain's food. Finally, some countries simply don't want a big, international corporation competing with their local favorites or bringing Westernized consumer culture into their country.
That said, the list of countries with no McDonald's grows a little shorter each year. For example, Brunei, Tunisia were both removed from this list (and added to the list of countries that do have a McDonald's) in 2021.
Iceland was home to 3 or 4 (sources differ) McDonald's restaurants until the country's financial crisis in 2009. With the collapse of the country's currency, the cost of importing the restaurants' required food products reportedly doubled, forcing all locations to shut down. Though to be fair, at least one source claims that the local's loyalty to Iceland's own burger chain, the resplendently named Hambórgarabúllan, made it hard for McDonald's to operate in Iceland in the first place. A 2018 New York Post article stated that McDonald's had plans to return to Iceland, but the claim was dismissed as a rumor by the company's European division.
Macedonia hosted seven McDonald's restaurants until the chain's European office terminated the franchisee's licenses for undisclosed reasons in 2013. Bermuda outlawed foreign restaurant franchises in 1977 (the lone fast-food restaurant on the island, a KFC, opened before the law was implemented), but allowed a single McDonald's to open on a U.S. military base in 1985. When the base closed in 1995, the government leveraged the existing law to make sure the restaurant closed as well.
McDonald's opened up in Jamaica in 1995, but vacated the country in 2005, having been unable to dent the competition. The lone McDonald's in Barbados opened in 1996 but closed less than a year later, unable to convince the poultry-and-seafood-loving country to get excited about burgers. The building is now a financial services office. San Marino's only McDonald's lasted a bit longer, from 1999 to 2019, but eventually succumbed to nearby competition.
The South American country Bolivia hosted a handful of McDonald's restaurants for more than a decade, but Bolivians never quite warmed to the "super-fast, but not always super-healthy" McDonald's menu and the chain eventually backed out of the country. Rumors persist that the franchise is planning a return—in fact, one corporate McDonald's website even linked to a now-defunct McDonald's Bolivia facebook page. But as of late 2021, the rumors had not proven true—moreover, contrasting reports say the government has officially banned the franchise.
In Montenegro, McDonald's started exploring the country by opening a "mobile restaurant" to test the market. According to scant reports and rumors, local competitors resisted and pressured (possibly paid) the government to outlaw the chain's presence in the country. However, in an unusual development, Montenegro's official Public Relations Bureau responded to the accusations by issuing an official press release declaring that "No company, not even the McDonald's, is "forbidden" to do business in Montenegro." For whatever reason, McDonald's does not exist in Montenegro as of 2021.
Perhaps the strangest non-McDonald's scenarios exist in the Middle East. In Iran (which has never had an official McDonald's), a restaurant known as "Mash Donalds" uses an oddly familiar M-shaped logo and menu. Not to be outdone, Iraq, which hasn't had an official McDonald's since 1979, has at least two extremely similar clones: MaDonal (whose owner is said to have applied for a McDonald's license and been denied) and Matbax.
As mentioned above, while most countries without McDonald's have no strong feelings about the situation one way or another, a handful of countries have gone so far as to completely outlaw the restaurant chain. This is usually done in the name of supporting local cuisine or preserving public health.
The following countries do not have a single McDonald's location: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, the Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Iceland, Iran, Iraq, the Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, the Maldives, Mali, the Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Micronesia, Mongolia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, the Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Togo, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Vatican City, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
Approximately 120 countries throughout the world have at least one McDonald's location.