Hurting for profits, world's oldest McDonald's adding a drive-thru

Photo by Pam Lane,

Photo by Pam Lane,

DOWNEY – The City of Downey Planning Commission unanimously approved the addition of a drive-thru to the city’s classic McDonald’s location on Wednesday.

The fast food restaurant, located at the corner of Florence Avenue and Lakewood Boulevard, was the third McDonald’s location to be built by the now staple burger chain. The restaurant was built 1953, and is currently the oldest operating McDonald’s in the world. 

The iconic arch and animated neon “Speedee” sign were added in 1959. To this day the location has retained its original architecture and retro style.

However, McDonald’s claims that the often historically described location has struggled to make a profit in modern times, largely in part to its lack of a drive-thru. According to the popular food chain, other local McDonald’s locations conduct approximately 65% of their sales via drive-thru operations. 

At Wednesday night’s meeting, a representative of McDonald’s indicated that the struggling restaurant was also competing with another McDonald’s location not too terribly far away, located at the corner of Gallatin and Lakewood. That location underwent a major remodel and update last year, which included improvements to a once cluttered drive-thru lane that often times overran into the parking lot. 

dave_hensley/flickr/Creative Commons

dave_hensley/flickr/Creative Commons

Normally, the planning commission does not take financial concerns when considering a land use entitlement. However, in the case of the iconic McDonald’s, the continued presence and operation of the restaurant was deemed of vital interest to the community. 

Public opinion had been mixed even before the commission’s vote. Several community members responded to an article published by The Downey Patriot via social media, with many showing excitement for the upgrade and others fearing the loss of the location’s historical value.  

The oldest operating McDonald’s was deemed eligible to be listed on the National and State Registers of Historical Places back in 1984, however has not been included in either as of late. Many within the city and local areas consider the building to be a historical landmark despite this fact.

According to the plans that were approved, the future drive-thru will not take away from the location’s classic look and feel, and instead will be located in the ally directly behind the building. The plans also call for a modernization of the kitchen, allowing the restaurant to update their menu and offer products not currently available.

Before officially casting their vote, commission members briefly discussed their feelings on the matter, and were all unanimous in the thought that the drive-thru was long overdue. 

“I think a drive-thru is a fantastic idea at this site,” said Vice-Chairman Jim Rodriguez. “It’s going to enhance this site. It’s going to bring better, additional business…”

“It’s the old Mc Donald’s. We all know it in Downey, and people outside of Downey know it,” said Chairman Matias Flores. “…It’s definitely something that I identify with Downey, and I’m glad we’re doing something to keep it up…”

The commission’s final vote was a unanimous 4-0 in favor. District 2 Commissioner Patrick Owens was not present.