McDonald’s was once bright red and yellow and filled with the promise of fries, ketchup, a burger, and at least a half hour of fun—when did the chain grow up? Walking into a McDonald’s used to resemble walking into an actual circus with all the colors and characters. Now, the aesthetic of modern McDonald’s looks more like a corporate office than a fast food restaurant, Vox explains.
Like most things in corporate America, the unique qualities of McDonald’s older restaurant designs, like the presence of the Hamburglar and Ronald himself, have been erased and replaced with “muted colors, large glass windows, and overall boxy appearance,” says Vox writer Steven T. Wright.
“This visual homogenization — or Chipotle-fication, if you will — is marked by exposed lighting, comfortable seating, and antiseptic steel surfaces,” Wright goes on. “Perhaps the most telling detail: The double-sloped mansard roof that was long associated with McDonald’s has largely become a thing of the past, much like the red roof of Pizza Hut.”
Down the street from my grandparents’ house is a McDonald’s I would walk to with my grandpa when I was younger. The restaurant is still there today, but it looks nothing like the establishment I remember as a kid. When I think about it, I can still remember the layout of the old design. Along with the play area, plastic tunnels and such, I can still clearly see in my mind the hamburger and french fries chairs. Back in the ’90s and early 2000s, before bad publicity and health concerns forced a change, most McDonald’s had fun-shaped seats resembling menu items and iconic characters like Grimace. People must be truly craving that nostalgia, because you can buy a set of those chairs on eBay for $6,300.
Brightly colored and in your face, this design could now be described as outdated or childish, but that was the point at the time. Without turning this into one of those “back in my day” moments, McDonald’s has undeniably changed since I was a kid. Growing up, kids would beg and get excited when parents agreed to take them to McDonald’s. The company’s audience was clear: families. Now it’s not so clear. If the audience is everyone, that’s great, nothing wrong there. But, you also have to admit that the identity and originality of the chain has faded over the years. Read more about it at Vox.