McDonald's – A European Oasis of Style? Really?

When Americans think of McDonald’s, they usually fall into one of two camps. These two groups can be characterized by the following thoughts:

Group A: “Yay, cheap food in 30 seconds!”
Group B: “Um, ew.”

While Group B might avoid McDonald’s at all costs, Group A has no problem with sitting down to grab a quick bite to eat; they might even enjoy it. They’ve grown accustomed to the red and yellow decor, the hard plastic chairs, the food-traffic worn floors. In the United States, McDonald’s isn’t known for its ambience. It’s known for serving up a boatload of calories, fast and on the cheap.

Great Britain, on the other hand, has a somewhat difference perspective on America’s favorite fast food chain. In Europe, locals want a comfortable place to relax — they want clean, they want stylish, and they want nice, dammit. The hard and fast Mickey-D’s as we know it wouldn’t do well in, say, London, so McDonald’s Corp decided to cater to the dominant demographic.

Behold, the stylish London McDonald’s:

European McDonalds
Doesn’t look like the average American fast food joint exterior, does it?

European McDonalds
Several locations have conference-style seating upstairs.

European McDonalds
Some of the seating areas almost look like paintings, with their color selection.

European McDonalds
Even the area around the counters are made to look nice, like a place you’d want to spend time hanging out.

And down the street at Burger King… things aren’t all that different from what you’d find in the US:
European McDonalds

It’s worth noting, though, that while the interior decor is an example of European finery, the food is pretty much the same as you’d find in the United States. In fact, I had a medium fries and proceeded to pay for it with a cacophony of gastronomical gurgles for the next 24 hours. Like they say, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover — regardless of how attractive that cover may be.

This post originally appeared on KQED’s Bay Area Bites on 3/15/2011.

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Comments from other ninjas:

  1. Amber says

    the McDonalds by my parents house is nice inside with a “lounge” area with seating and small side tables and a huge flat screen tv.

  2. Roxanne @ Champino of My Heart says

    The space is indeed pretty, but I’m glad to say that so far in 2011 I haven’t had one spec of “fast food.” The longer you go w/o it … the more it creeps you out.

  3. Susan says

    If you think that’s jarring, check out what McDonald’s has to offer in Hong Kong:

    Oh, and the next time you’re in the Cambridge area, you might like to check out Clover Food Lab. They serve super-fast food (with est. prep times on the menu) using mostly local ingredients. And everything is compostable, too.

  4. Kerry Dexter says

    so, Steph, have you checked out a Pret a Manger yet, or a D’Amico’s? be interested to hear what you think of those, as chain restaurants go. and while you’re in England — go to Scotland!
    safe travels.

  5. Casey@Good. Food. Stories. says

    There’s one of those spiffed-up Mickey D’s in NYC now too! I often walk by and think, “Who are they kidding?” but… it’s always packed, so I guess the joke’s on me.

  6. MyKidsEatSquid says

    Wow, it’s like IKEA invaded Mickey D’s without the Lingonberry juice. Now the real question is, do they still have happy meals?

  7. Alena says

    I bet you’ve already sought out the McD for a clean and free rest room haven’t you? McD often sits on prime real estate in europe and they are newer so they often look nicer. They usually charge for ketchup though. Hope you are having some good local food experiences as well!

  8. Vera Marie Badertscher says

    We stumbled upon a couple of those stylish McDs in California last summer, so perhaps they are making their way to our continent as well.

  9. Sarah - A Beach Home Companion says

    Vera is right, I’ve gone into a couple McDonald’s that look more like a Starbuck’s than the place I dreamed of having my birthday party when I was a kid. And I will continue to go to them as long as they keep making iced coffees!

  10. thadeus says

    euro mcdonalds are truly wonders of the universe. clean, english is spoken, and the bathrooms are use able. that being said, to truly enjoy europe never, ever, ever set foot inside one while on travels.


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