I'm sitting in McDonald's new prototype restaurant in the Chelsea section of New York City, watching the arriving guests do a double take. This is the first U.S. outlet of the chain to get the new look, which has apparently been greenlighted already in Europe.
It's so different that it's eliciting a lot of pointing and head nodding as patrons comprehend the changes. But the points of departure actually started outside, with a banner that could be the biggest sacrilege of all to hardcore Mickie D's fans. The flag sports--brace yourself--a new color scheme for the logo.
The Arch in the design is still golden. But it's on a black background, with a bar of red underneath. For traditionalists, this is jarring stuff.
Inside, the most noticeable switch from a conventional store has to be the seating. It's actually padded.
I'll let that sink in for a moment.
No more rock-hard molded plastic. Now the booths have upholstery both on the seat and the back uprights. Stools at the long common tables are also padded.
The lighting is far more muted, a pleasant break from the operating-room brightness of conventional units. And the colors are more Yuppie Modern than the brash, almost cartoonish colors of older stores. Lots of deep oranges, rich greens, and off-whites.
Much has been reported about the incorporation of flat screen monitors throughout the unit. There are at least two in the sizable dining room where I'm sitting, but no one seems to be watching, no doubt because you can't hear them. And one's a mere table away from me.
If the more-comfortable seats and more inviting color pattern are intended to foster more hanging out, the new look is an obvious success. A number of youngsters, apparently from a nearby high school, have parked themselves behind beverages of one sort of another (lots of lattes and sodas). There's a lot of conversation going on, as well as considerable munching and sipping.
There's a computer screen downstairs that I couldn't get near. I can't tell if it's a computer portal or some type of ordering device.
More on that in a follow up. Now it's time to finish my sugar-free latte and snoop some more.