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Local Stories by Local People
updated: Mar 27, 2008, 12:00 AM

Egg McMuffin Inventor and Santa Barbara McDonald's Owner/Operator Herb Peterson Passes Away
Source: Jessica Trumble

"Mr. Egg McMuffin", Herb Peterson passed away on Tuesday, March 25th at the age of 89 years old. Peterson, along with his son and partner David Peterson, was the Owner/Operator of the six McDonald's restaurants in Santa Barbara and Goleta, which are part of the Central Coast McDonald's Co- Op.

Peterson demonstrated creativity and innovation as the inventor of the restaurant's Egg McMuffin, which revolutionized the food service industry. Through this breakfast product innovation, Herb leaves a long-term legacy with McDonald's.

Peterson, a Chicago native, started his career with McDonald's as Vice President of D'Arcy Advertising, McDonald's first advertising agency. As Account Supervisor on the McDonald's account, he wrote McDonald's first national advertising slogan-"Where Quality Starts Fresh Every DayT"-and helped to create the persona of Ronald McDonald. Peterson was so impressed with McDonald's founder Ray Kroc and the quality of the McDonald's business that, when Ray offered him the opportunity to become a McDonald's franchisee, Peterson seized the opportunity and decided to begin selling the products he had been marketing.

Peterson opened his first restaurant in Santa Barbara in 1968, and three more restaurants were soon to follow. However, since his restaurants did not open until lunchtime at 11 a.m., Peterson started thinking about how he could grow his business during the breakfast hours. Peterson realized that McDonald's would need a unique product to capitalize on this opportunity.

Modeled after his personal breakfast favorite-Eggs Benedict-Peterson asked a local blacksmith to make an iron ring to keep the eggs round and tidy as they were cooked for a hand-held sandwich. He presented his breakfast product idea to Kroc in 1973, and within a few years, the sandwich became the platform for the breakfast business at McDonald's from coast to coast. It altered the face of the food-service industry and literally changed the eating habits of millions of Americans as no other quick service restaurant offered breakfast before the development of the Egg McMuffin. Today, breakfast accounts for approximately 30 percent of sales at McDonald's restaurants.

Peterson truly embraced Ray Kroc's philosophy that McDonald's Owner/Operators must give back to the communities in which they serve. Peterson focused many of his local McDonald's-based marketing efforts on education and children's well-being initiatives. He and son David have been major supporters of McTeacher's Night for the past five years, and fundraisers like McTeacher's Night have raised more than $100,000 over the years to support the community's teachers and schools. Herb and David also participated in the local Adopt-A-School program, sponsored a local American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) team as well as supported a variety of youth athletic activities throughout the community. Peterson's son David plans to carry on his father's legacy through his continued support of education and children's community programs.

In August 2006, Peterson was the recipient of the national McDonald's Paul D. Schrage Marketing Excellence Lifetime Achievement Award. The award is named after Paul Schrage, who, during his more than 30 years at McDonald's as Chief Marketing Officer, helped build one of the most recognized brands in the world. Established in his honor in 2003, this prestigious national award is given to the McDonald's franchisee that represents the leadership, vision, character and heart that Schrage gave to McDonald's; Peterson was a most deserving recipient of this honor and award.

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