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The World's Oldest McDonald's Might Be Forced Into Adding a Drive-Thru

Changes are coming

The oldest McDonald's, Downey
The oldest McDonald's, Downey
Lucas Peterson
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

The world’s oldest McDonald’s rests quietly in Downey, CA, a casual mecca for burgerphiles and anyone with a bit of fast food nostalgia in their blood. The building itself has remained largely unchanged since its arrival in 1953, with its yawning golden arches and Googie flair. But according to a new report, things could be changing there soon, as McDonald’s corporate seeks to add a drive thru component to the building.

Curbed picked up on a story first run by the Fox News LA team, which reports that the Downey Planning Commission has received a request from McDonald’s corporate offices to approve plans for a drive-thru on site. Word from on high is that, despite the kitsch and charm of the beautifully wonky building, they aren’t technically selling many burgers or shakes inside. So to boost low profit numbers and increase customer turnover, a drive-thru has been proposed.

That has led to some amount of outcry from locals who have become enamored with the big single yellow arch and ‘HAMBURGERS’ sign out front, and there are fears that modernization efforts like these, some 60 years in, will only begin what could be a cascade of updates that would ruin the history of the restaurant. At least for now, you can still tour the building, looking in on their makeshift museum while eating an apple pie that’s still actually fried, not baked.

It doesn’t look as though Downey has decided what to do just yet, but McDonald’s is certainly intending to move forward with the plan so far. After all, the place has to remain at least marginally profitable to justify its existence — regardless of whether or not it’s an icon of the brand.

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