Jim Delligatti, the longtime McDonald’s Corp. franchisee who invented the Big Mac in 1967, died on Monday night. He was 98.
The company said Wednesday that Delligatti died surrounded by family.
Delligatti was one of the chain’s first franchisees and ultimately went on to operate 47 locations in Western Penn., making him one of the chain’s largest operators.
Delligatti had pushed the company for years to develop a bigger sandwich to improve profits, according to the Chicago Tribune, and ultimately took on the task himself, using friends and family as taste testers.
In 1967, Delligatti made a sandwich with two patties, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions and a “secret sauce” and introduced it at a location in Uniontown, Pa. Sales took off.
Today, we celebrate the 98 inspirational years of Big Mac inventor, Michael "Jim" Delligatti. Jim, we thank and will forever remember you. pic.twitter.com/wmEFrmazdn— McDonald's (@McDonalds) November 30, 2016
The Big Mac went national one year later and has since become perhaps the most iconic sandwich in the restaurant business. It is so commonly sold all over the world that the magazine The Economist publishes The Big Mac Index, a light-hearted guide to the value of different countries’ currencies.
“He is an exemplary individual who embraced the community and championed many causes and organizations that benefitted children,” McDonald’s spokeswoman Becca Hary said in an email statement.
“We will remember Jim as an insightful franchisee, a knowledgeable businessman, and an honorable gentleman who left a legacy of four generations of family members running great restaurants in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.”
Delligatti didn’t just introduce the Big Mac. According to his family, he helped develop the chain’s vital breakfast — having introduced Hotcakes and Sausage to feed steelworkers coming home from overnight shifts. His company, M&J Management, is now a four-generation family business that has operated McDonald’s restaurants for more than 60 years.