Once again McDonald’s has claimed the top spot on NRN’s list of the 50 biggest restaurants in America, towering over its competitors with a whopping $39.53 billion in 2020 sales. Even though McDonald’s is the dictionary definition of an industry titan, it still had to get clever in order to thrive during the food industry’s annus horribilis. The chain made big moves like introducing a new line of chicken sandwiches and embracing the power of celebrity collaborations—something the chain hadn’t done since the fabled McJordan Special of 1992.
Last September McDonald’s released a limited-edition combo meal “curated” by Travis Scott featuring a Quarter Pounder with bacon, shredded lettuce, and cheese; fries with barbecue sauce for dipping; and a medium Sprite. Though on the surface there is nothing particularly special about that meal, Scott’s endorsement made it so popular that some restaurants began running out of the ingredients to make it. Weeks later came the J Balvin Meal, which was equally unimpressive on paper (Big Mac, medium fries, Oreo McFlurry), but thanks to the celebrity endorsement, McDonald’s made a shitton of money.
After a cold, celebrity-meal-less winter, the company roared back this spring in collaboration with the biggest stars in the world: Korean pop group BTS. Unlike Scott and Balvin, the seven biggest figures in pop music used their outsized influence to wow and amaze us, persuading McDonald’s to bring the Sweet Chili and Cajun McNugget dipping sauces from its South Korean restaurants to America. I was somewhat indifferent to BTS before this collaboration, but as a lifelong McNugget enthusiast, I am now a superfan who shall forever be in their debt.
Imagine what kind of power other celebrities might be able to wield! Maybe one day we’ll get an Arianna Grande–approved McPlant with sweet and sour fries and Diet Coke, or a Timothée Chalamet–inspired Filet-O-Fish meal, or a large sack of hash browns and McRibs developed in partnership with Steve Buscemi. What celebrity do you want to see posing with the Golden Arches next, and what would (or should) their signature meal be?