McDonald’s 50 years in UK: London’s Maccy Ds history in ten photographs

In 2024, McDonald’s will celebrate 50 years since the UK’s first branch opened in Woolwich, in south-east London.

In 1974, the American hamburger chain McDonald’s opened its first UK branch in Powis Street, Woolwich.

Approaching 50 years later and there are more than 1,270 branches in the country, making it a brand as recognisable as any British institution.

For more than 40 years the UK operation has been headquartered in north London, just the other side of East Finchley station from The Bishops Avenue, known as ‘Billionaires’ Row’.

McDonald’s was founded in 1940, when Dick and Mac McDonald opened McDonald’s Bar-B-Q restaurant in San Bernardino, California, with an extensive menu. But it was 75 years ago, in 1948, that the remodelled the business, making it a self-service drive-in, with a 15-cent burger at the heart of a nine item menu.

The golden arches, along with red and white branding, first appeared in 1955.

In the UK these days, pass a McDonald’s restaurant in the evening evening, or ask any Deliveroo rider what people order most often, and you’ll have no doubt that the brand’s popularity is as strong as ever.

But the company has had its ups and downs, scandals, and protests over animal welfare and workers’ rights concerns. Here we look back at some moments, and key images.