Jim Delligatti’s burger innovation spread around the world.
Big Mac creator Michael "Jim" Delligatti, the Pittsburgh-area McDonald's franchisee who created the Big Mac in 1967, has died. He was 98. PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Jim Delligatti, the McDonald’s Corp. franchisee who created the Big Mac, died Monday at the age of 98. His story is a reminder that great business innovations often have nothing to do with high technology but always have a lot to do with satisfying the customer.
The U.S. economy benefits greatly from the latest Silicon Valley creations, but creativity also occurs in places like Uniontown, Pennsylvania, where Delligatti served his first Big Mac in 1967.
Executives at McDonald’s headquarters were skeptical of the new sandwich. But Delligatti’s customers instantly liked the combination of “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun,” as the company would later celebrate in a memorable jingle. Within a year it would be on the fast-food chain’s menus nationwide.
An Army veteran who served in Europe during World War II, Delligatti freely admitted that the Big Mac was inspired by double-decker burgers offered by local competitors. “This wasn’t like discovering the lightbulb,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1993. “The bulb was already there. All I did was screw it in the socket.”
Billions of Big Macs later, it’s clear that he met the demand of consumers world-wide. Sales growth has slowed as millennials look for allegedly healthier options, often with more organic ingredients. We’ll leave it to nutritionists to debate whether diners are really better off eating something that was grown in local manure. [JB emphasis]But we note that Jim Delligatti ate a lot of Big Macs in the last half-century of his very long and fruitful life
A Princeton PhD, was a US diplomat for over 20 years, mostly in Eastern Europe, and was promoted to the Senior Foreign Service in 1997. For the Open World Leadership Center, he speaks with
its delegates from Europe/Eurasia on the topic, "E Pluribus Unum? What Keeps the United States United." Affiliated with Georgetown University for over ten years, he shares ideas with students about public diplomacy.
The papers of his deceased father -- poet and diplomat John L. Brown -- are stored at Georgetown University Special Collections at the Lauinger Library. They are manuscript materials valuable to scholars interested in post-WWII U.S.-European cultural relations.
This blog is dedicated to him, Dr. John L. Brown, a remarkable linguist/humanist who wrote in the Foreign Service Journal (1964) -- years before "soft power" was ever coined -- that "The CAO [Cultural Affairs Officer] soon comes to realize that his job is really a form of love-making and that making love is never really successful unless both partners are participating."