Inside London’s first McDonald’s – 21p cheeseburgers and ashtrays at every table

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It is hard to imagine London with no McDonald's nowadays.

The fast food giant has been opening branches all over the capital since the 1970s and its now possible to get some chicken nuggets pretty much anywhere you are in the city.

But this wasn't the case before 1974, when McDonald's opened its first London restaurant in Woolwich, South London.

The opening day was a sight to behold, with crowds gathered outside wanting to get a peek at the shiny new fast food outlet.

Inside they were met with wooden seats, an ashtray placed on every table, and some of the cheapest food Brits had ever seen.

The interior was admittedly nothing to write home about, with muddy brown and cream colours – as well as massive photo portraits lining the walls.

But the tasty hamburger, "made from 100% pure beef, topped with pickles, mustard and ketchup, served in a freshly toasted bun" cost a bargain 15p.

A cheeseburger was again a ridiculously cheap 21p, and those with a bigger appetite could buy a a Quarter Pounder with Cheese or a Big Mac for 45p.

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Ian, who worked in the first store in Woolwich, spoke to MyLondon about his experience.

He said: "It was a very different place then. It wasn't quite the arse end of London but it was pretty average.

"In fact that's why McDonald's chose it because they wanted the most average place in the UK as a test to see how well it would do.

"Woolwich was a bit like a dystopian apocalyptic nightmare back then. There was a pub, a department store, quite a grotty market and a station and that was about it.

"Interestingly compared to how it is now the staff was very un-diverse. There was one older Asian bloke but the rest were basically white London townies.

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"Every part of the store was stainless steel and you had to clean almost every square inch of it every single day. It was an absolute nightmare.

"It wasn't quite as hygienic as it is now. There was this backyard where everyone would go out to smoke and it was about four inches deep in slurry of various kinds. When people came back in they'd tread it in with their feet.

"They'd get you to go and clean the toilets and then put you straight to work on the grill."

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The former employee admits that the food wasn't always as fresh as it was supposed to be.

He added: "There were little numbers in the rows of burgers which were little timings of when they had to be used by otherwise they would have to be thrown away.

"But if the manager had cocked up, you'd just move the cards a little bit so the food you were serving was considerably older than it was supposed to be.

"If you dropped something on the floor it was classified as 'a good catch' and would go back on sale."

  • Money
  • Pubs
  • Family
  • London
  • Mcdonalds
  • Food

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