Recall the McDonald’s dining room of your youth: sterile plastic booths, swiveling chairs, bolted-down tables, fluorescent lights. The way it looked was beside the point. That sticky ball pit and playground was the real draw. But grown-up McDonald’s fans crave a more stylish dining experience.
That’s why, after 60 years, the fast-food giant is transforming the look of its restaurants from its iconic cafeteria-esque look to a more mid-century modern style. “Comfortable modern,” to be exact, is how Max Carmona, McDonald’s senior director of U.S. restaurant design, described it to Buzzfeed.
Say goodbye to the old-school swivel stools—pretty soon your local McDonald’s will look more like an IKEA showroom. Fluorescent lights will be swapped out for softer, more energy-efficient LEDs, (and hopefully making value meals look more appetizing.) You can also expect sleek, colorful Eames-esque chairs, clean lines, and a lot of bright patterns.
So what’s driving this redesign? Company executives hope it’ll help revitalize the aging brand. But also, with 70 percent of sales coming through the drive-thru, no doubt they want to attract more diners to eat in-store—and possibly spend more time and money there. Consider how much longer people tend to linger in a Starbucks: The way it can feel like a home away from home (with free Wi-Fi!) encourages customers to post up while continuously ordering extra rounds of lattes and scones. These days you can even stay for happy hour—thanks to Starbucks Evenings, a glass of pinot grigio and a plate of truffle mac and cheese are available right where you already had your afternoon caffeine fix.
Starbucks is just one of the companies McDonald’s is competing against during its worst sales slump in years. Newer fast-casual chains like Shake Shack and Sweetgreen are lighting a fire under the chain to appeal to consumers seeking a cozier, more appealing environment. But no matter how inviting chain restaurants manage to make their dining rooms, it’s important to remember that eating there shouldn’t be a replacement for a good old-fashioned home-cooked meal.
Cooking at home is generally reported to be healthier than eating out—especially if the typical restaurants chosen are fast food chains. According to a report by the USDA, we tend to consume more calories dining out than at home. For example, consuming extra tomatoes prepared at a restaurant can increase calorie intake by as many as 364 calories versus 59 when prepared at home. And considering that last year we spent more money on dining out than we did on groceries, it’s more important than ever to make a concerted effort to cook up more nutritious meals at home. (Need some ideas? Here are tons of healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes.)
While McDonald’s is certainly making some strides in updating their practices where it counts—such as using cage-free eggs and introducing kale to the menu—it seems like the millions that will be allocated to giving its restaurants a face lift would be better spent on integrating even more healthier options and phasing out more of the bad. In the meantime, there’s no doubt that home is still where you’ll get the comfiest and healthiest dining experience.
Photo credit: Sarah Gilbert via Flickr, McDonald's