Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Egg McMuffin inventor dies


Local restaurateur Herbert Ralph Peterson, who owned six local McDonald’s restaurants and is credited with inventing the fast-food giant’s marquee breakfast item, the Egg McMuffin, died on Tuesday night. He was 89.
Peterson’s son and business partner, David Peterson, said his father worked well into his 80s and was a regular behind the counter at his establishments, checking French fries, testing Egg McMuffins, chatting with employees and drinking coffee.

“He had this sort of magic twinkle in his eye that was contagious,” David Peterson said. “He loved the brand. He is going to be truly missed.”
Born in Chicago, Ill. On Jan. 5, 1919, Peterson first got involved with McDonald’s as the vice president of D’Arcy Advertising, which represented the then small-time burger franchise in its infancy in the late 1960s.
According to a statement issued yesterday by the Central Coast McDonald’s Co-Op, which is a consortium McDonald’s restaurants from San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, he wrote McDonald’s first national advertising slogan, “Where Quality Starts Fresh Every Day.”
But despite his success in advertising, David Peterson said it didn’t take long before McDonald's founder Ray Kroc offered his father an opportunity to become a franchisee in Santa Barbara, an offer he accepted in 1968.
Kroc recommended Santa Barbara because Peterson’s wife’s name is Barbara.
Shortly after arriving in California, Peterson opened three more McDonald’s locations and began thinking up ways to capitalize on the breakfast market.
At that time, David Peterson said McDonald’s restaurants didn’t open their doors until 11 a.m. — a reality not lost on Peterson, who his son called “an eggs benedict aficionado.”
Legend has it, Peterson asked a local blacksmith to make an iron ring to keep the eggs round and tidy as they were cooked in order to conform with a hand-held sandwich, the statement said.
Peterson presented the theory behind the Egg McMuffin to Kroc in 1973 and shortly thereafter, the sandwich became an American breakfast staple. Breakfast now accounts for 30 percent of the annual sales at McDonald’s, the statement said.
But Peterson’s contributions to the McDonald’s franchise didn’t stop there.
David Peterson said his father was the first McDonald’s franchisee to hire female employees in the 1960s and also came up with the character Ronald McDonald.
Monte Fraker, director of operations for the Co-Op, said he met Peterson 30 years ago when he took a job as a cashier at McDonald’s on Milpas Street.
Fraker said he managed to slowly work his way up through the ranks under Peterson, who he called a “wonderful man.”
“He was so dedicated and passionate,” Fraker said. “Up until the end he just loved McDonalds. He was in there everyday.”
Peterson, who had suffered for the past couple of years from an undisclosed illness, also delved into local philanthropy work, working with the local Adopt-A-School program and American Youth Soccer Organization. Fraker said he once donated an elephant to the Santa Barbara Zoo.
David Peterson said the license plates on his father’s two cars read, EGGMC1 and EGGMC2 — a detail of the man’s life that subtly highlighted his dedication to the work he loved.
“He always talked about how he wanted his McDonald’s to have a touch of class and to be a step apart from everybody else,” David Peterson said. “Everyone knows him and everyone loves him.”
A funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m. on April 23 at All Saints by the Sea Episcopal Church.
Peterson is survived by his wife, four children, 11 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

1 comment:

Greg Knowles said...

Mr. Peterson was a local legend, and I would like to extend my sympathies to his family. God Bless!