Fast food giant McDonald’s Corporation MCD is one of the largest catering companies in the world. Launched in 1940, the company set many industry standards and firsts, including the launch of an item in 1979 that transformed the fast food market.

What happened: The first McDonald’s restaurant was open in 1940 by brothers Maurice and Richard McDonald. The concept was to offer food at low prices, including a burger that was 15 cents cheaper than its competitors.

Ray Kroc later he helped franchise restaurants and eventually bought out the brothers in 1961.

Over the years, McDonald’s has launched several items that have propelled it forward:

1965: McDonald’s IPO

1968: first Big Mac

1975: first drive-thru window

1983: Addition of Chicken McNuggets to the menu

2002: National Dollar Menu

The launch of a new menu item in 1979 that became a staple of McDonald’s and copied by many other restaurants in one form or another was mixed in with these company offerings, including its April 21 IPO. 1965.

Guatemalan businesswoman Yolanda Fernandez de Cofino is credited by inventing the Happy Meal, an offer for children that now includes a main dish, a side dish, a drink and a toy or a book. Fernandez de Cofino was the owner of the first franchise McDonald’s in Guatemala and saw that the menu items were too large for children, leading to a children’s meal, which was adopted by the chain worldwide.

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Investing $1,000 in MCD shares: McDonald’s shares were trading at around $46.25 when the Happy Meal was introduced in June 1979.

A $1,000 investment could have bought 21.62 shares of McDonald’s at the time.

McDonald’s carried out 3-for-2 stock splits in 1982, 1984, 1986 and 1987 and 2-for-1 in 1989, 1994 and 1999.

After the stock splits, the 21.62 shares would be 875.61 shares today.

The $1,000 investment in McDonald’s stock would be $226,607.87 today, based on a current price of $258.80 for McDonald’s stock at the time of writing.

The $1,000 investment would be up 22,560.8% or an annual average of 524.7% over the past 43 years.

That would be more than enough to buy Happy Meals for the kids in your family for years to come.

Photo: Courtesy of Eric Lewis on flickr