The Restaurants You Didn't Realize Were Once Owned By McDonald's

Two words come to mind when you hear the word McDonald's: burgers and business. While we're personally here for the burger portion, there's no doubt that the chain has all but taken over the fast food world since it first stepped onto the scene in 1940.

McDonald's has been far from quiet with the successful introduction of cult classics like the Big Mac and the McFlurry, which have become staple menu items since. And while it's no secret that the burger chain's been doing big business on its own, many loyal fast food lunch-goers have no idea just how far McDonald's has climbed up the casual eatery ladder. 

It turns out McD's has gotten its Hamburglar hands onto some new territories, diving into everything from tacos to pizza. We're going to break down some of the unlikely restaurants that your fave fast food joint has owned in recent years, starting with another crowd favorite: Chipotle.

McDonald's owned this pioneering fast-casual restaurant for nearly a decade

Yes, McDonald's and tacos — it seems like an unlikely duo from the second you walk into a Chipotle, with its modern metal tables, wood beams, and build-your-own burrito bar. But believe it or not, McDonald's invested in the Mexican chain back before it blew up.

According to Reader's Digest, the two chains found each other in 1998, when Chipotle had just over a dozen locations and was slowly growing. At the same time, McDonald's was enjoying seemingly unstoppable success on its own and invested $50 million into the fast-casual Mexican restaurant. The partnership lasted until 2006, when McDonald's sold its 90% stake in Chipotle to refocus and strengthen its own (struggling) burger brand. At the time, Chipotle had ballooned to include over 500 locations nationwide.

Years later, Chipotle commented on the partnership, explaining that McDonald's was pushing a concept that wasn't in line with its brand. McD's wanted taco drive-thrus and a name change, but Chipotle wanted fresh food and to stick to its roots (via Bloomberg).

McD's may be regretting that choice, though. Nowadays, the formerly McDonald's-owned Chipotle has expanded to a portfolio of over 2,000 restaurants, reports Reader's Digest.

McDonald's took on pizza in a whole new way with Donatos

McDonald's pizza may have been one of the brand's biggest flops in history, but the 1989 McPizza fail wasn't enough to steer the company away from a good slice. Except this time, it wasn't the one behind the oven.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Donatos Pizza and McDonald's partnered up in 1999, not long after the burger chain began investing in Chipotle (clearly, total fast food domination was on its mind). McDonald's fully acquired the pizza chain from the previous owner and hoped to give the chain a push in the right direction, just as it did with Chipotle. The deal, however, was quick to dissolve — in 2003, McDonald's sold all 182 storefronts back to the original owner.

We're pretty certain this proves that pizza is not McDonald's strong suit after all, but that's no problem. More time to perfect those burgers and fries? No complaints here.

Boston Market was one of McDonald's latest ventures

In December 1999, McDonald's again reaffirmed its position at the top of the fast food biz by buying the majority of the Boston Market chain's assets for a whopping $173.5 million. According to the Los Angeles Times, the deal included ownership of over 750 restaurants, plus the rights to another hundred or so franchises. The deal was a surprising one, considering Boston Market's emphasis on fresh and homemade comfort food (AKA, the total opposite of a six-piece McNugget box).

However, it was the third large purchase by the chain in a short period of time, and McDonald's mission — to grow beyond the burgers, and into the fast food world as a whole — was clear.

By 2007, McDonald's flaked on the business deal and sold its stake in Boston Market to a capital firm. The chain may have been struggling, but it was stable enough to take the hit — the company didn't even report a loss after the sale. McD's executives explained the sale with the same reasoning as it did with Chipotle and Donatos: McDonald's just needed to focus on McDonald's again for a little bit (via Albuquerque Business First). Hey, there's nothing quite like a little self-care, right?