Forty years of McDonald's in the UK: some surprising facts

The fast food giant is celebrating the anniversary of its first UK branch, which was in Woolwich

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(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The US burger chain McDonald's, now ubiquitous on UK high streets and in its retail parks, has been with us for forty years. The original branch, which opened in Woolwich 1974, has turned into 1,249 outlets across the country.

When the restaurant first opened its doors, it was seen as a stylish destination - or at least it was marketed that way. In the early 2000s, expansion slowed down as it fell out of fashion, as it increasingly became perceived as being downmarket.

McDonald's is now back "in rude health" in the UK, says the Daily Telegraph, though it is still struggling in the US. Although perhaps surprisingly, it is not Britain's biggest food or drink chain in terms of the number of its outlets – that honour goes to Costa Coffee, followed by Greggs.

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Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Master Chef judge William Sitwell said the chain's influence on four decades of British diners had been "revolutionary".

Sitwell said McDonald's had influenced the UK public by breaking down traditional meal times and encouraging people to eat "things that they wanted, when they wanted". Food writer Bee Wilson said the chain had shifted the national palate from enjoying salty flavours to favouring "salty-sweet" flavours.

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