McDonald's famous children's menu had its beginnings in Guatemala, the most populated country in Central America. However, its creator, Yolanda Fernández de Cofiña, is Chilean.
Fernández de Cofiña, or Doña Yoli, as she is affectionately known, was born in Chile in 1934. Her father was sent as ambassador to Guatemala when she was 19 years old. Some time later, she married José María Cofiño Valladares, a businessman who bought a McDonald's franchise in 1974. The firm started with a restaurant located in a downtown area, but the first two years were not very successful.
In 1979, Yolanda, who was the president of McDonald's Guatemala at the time, realized that the children who visited the restaurant needed a menu with adequate portions for them, because when they ate the hamburgers, there was always a large amount left over.
For this reason, she came up with the idea of launching a menu with a smaller portion of hamburger, fries and soda than usual, and accompanied it with a toy or dessert. This was originally dubbed the 'Ronald's Menu.'
"We started by putting out a small hamburger, small fries and a small soda with Ronald's little cup and an ice cream sundae. It occurred to me to buy a surprise, a little toy to make it attractive to the child," Yolanda told Forbes Latin America in 2018.
Ronald's Menu was a success. However, Doña Yoli had not asked McDonald's executives for authorization to implement the idea, and three years after executing it, the executives realized that it was selling in Guatemala and suggested she present it at a global convention.
Fernández's proposal was approved by executives worldwide and the name 'Ronald's Menu' changed to 'Happy Meal,' but when translated into Spanish it did not sound right. So the executives decided to call it 'Cajita Feliz,' the name by which it is known to this day throughout Latin America.
Fernández received the "Ronald de Plata" award, which is the highest recognition awarded by McDonald's Corporation. Guatemala was also taken as a world example in birthday celebrations designed especially for children's celebrations.
Plastic-free Happy Meal
In September, McDonald's announced it was going to reduce the plastic used in its iconic Happy Meal toys. The goal is to reduce the use of virgin fossil fuel-based plastic in all Happy Meal toys worldwide by the end of 2025.
McDonald's said it has already reduced the use of virgin fossil fuel plastic in toys by 30% since 2018 in markets such as France, Ireland and the UK.