Big Mac creator Jim Delligatti dead at 98

Michael “Jim” Delligatti, inventor of the iconic Big Mac sandwich, passed away Monday night surrounded by his family in Pittsburgh. He was 98 years old.


McDonald's Archive

Jim Delligatti holding his iconic burger.


Pittsburgh McDonald’s franchisee, Jim “MJ” Delligatti who created the Big Mac nearly 50 years ago has died at 98.

McDonald’s spokeswoman Kerry Ford confirmed that Delligatti died at home surrounded by his family on Monday night.

Delligatti first introduced the seven-ingredient sandwich at his Uniontown restaurant in 1967. Today the Big Mac is sold in more than 100 countries around the world and has become the most popular sandwich on the planet.

In 2006, Delligatti told the Associated Press that McDonald’s initially resisted the addition of the Big Mac because the chain’s lineup of simple burgers was selling very well.

Delligatti acknowledged the Big Mac was inspired by double-decker hamburgers made popular by rival restaurants. “This wasn’t like discovering the lightbulb,” Delligatti told the Los Angeles Times in 1993. “The bulb was already there. All I did was screw it in the socket.” Even so, Delligatti’s initiative helped launch McDonald’s signature item.

But Delligatti wanted to offer a bigger burger and it went over so well it spread to the rest of Delligatti’s 47 stores, then went national in 1968.

The original Big Mac advertisement from 1967.
McDonald’s Archives
The original Big Mac advertisement from 1967.

McDonald’s Corporate states, “Michael “Jim” Delligatti was a legendary franchisee within McDonald’s System who made a lasting impression on our Brand…. He is an exemplary individual who embraced the community and championed many causes and organizations that benefitted children.  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….”



Mr. Delligatti also innovated the McDonald’s menu by coming up with an early version of the chain’s breakfast offerings—hotcakes and sausages initially aimed at steelworkers returning home from overnight shifts.

Delligatti’s charitable contributions included backing for the Ronald McDonald House in Pittsburgh, which provides a home for families traveling to the area to get medical care for their children. This organization has spread throughout the country and world helping families in need of housing.

Though recent years have seen a decrease in the popularity of the Big Mac, some statistics show only 1 in 5 millennials have eaten a Big Mac, this burger is still the flagship item of the McDonald’s menu.

The Big Mac is such a cultural phenomenon it has its own museum in Irwin, PA, close to where this historic burger was invented. Opened August 23, 2007, the Big Mac Museum is a functioning McDonald’s restaurant owned and operated by Michael Delligatti, son of the burger’s inventor.

The restaurant features exhibits such as a 14-foot tall statue of the Big Mac, wallpaper inscribed with the burger’s historic recipe, and a bust of Jim Delligatti holding his world famous burger.

Jim Delligatti is survived by his two sons, wife, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be Thursday and Friday at the Devlin Funeral Home near Pittsburgh. Mr. Delligatti’s funeral will be held Saturday at St. Joseph’s Parish in O’Hara.