How McDonald’s Has Changed Since the ‘80s and ‘90s

McDonald’s is one of the best things that ever happened to man, and that’s not just an expression. Arguably one of the first modern restaurants in the United States, McDonald’s has moved a lot from being another restaurant in California owned by Richard and Maurice McDonald to becoming a model for modern restaurants.

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Now, it is very hard to drive through any city without seeing at least one or two Macdonald’s branches nearby. Although it is hard to imagine it as anything less than what it is now, McDonald’s did start small. What can we say? Change is, indeed, a constant. Here, check out some McDonald’s features that have changed since the ’80s and the ’90s.

The Classic Burger Seats

Back in the day, McDonald’s came up with a strange new idea for the pattern of their seats. It was classic, impressive, and out of the box: their famous food seats. Designed in the shape of a burger, this seating pattern had never been seen before.

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However, this seating pattern did not get as much appreciation as they would have wanted, and some people even classified the seats as terrifying. We don’t know why this seating pattern was changed, but maybe they realized that the burger seats would have been better without those poppy eyes.

The Chicken Nuggets in Halloween Costume

This breathtaking idea was only one of several to be implemented by McDonald’s, and it did give us another reason to look forward to Halloween. They had chicken nuggets wearing different Halloween costumes; it was awesome!

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Since we all loved chicken nuggets and Halloween, putting them together was just pitch perfect. Back then, the favorite costumes included ghost chicken nuggets, mummy chicken nuggets, and the popular pumpkin chicken nuggets. We all wished we could take a bite, but these nuggets were not edible after all.

The Infamous Salad Shakers

Salad shakers? Who knew any of those existed, and who could even come up with such an idea? Well, McDonald’s is guilty of thinking too far outside the box sometimes, and the McSalad shakers were one of those ideas that may have been too much.

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First, we never knew we needed salad shakers. Second, there are not a lot of people who would prefer their salad shaken. The salad shakers were not very well received by customers, and before long, they stopped making them. Guess McDonald’s found out salads are better left unshaken.

The McDonald’s Mini Crackers

McDonald’s invested in making special mini crackers back in the day. They had different shapes, and they were unique because most were made in the shape of faces. They got several positive feedbacks, and the mini crackers were appealing to kids.

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There was not very much that could have gone wrong with McDonald’s crackers, and they did enjoy popularity for a while. However, the crackers had some downside, which included some weird shapes and awful resemblances.

Unrecyclable Styrofoam Takeaway Plates

Well, it comes as no surprise that McDonald’s is one of the biggest polluters, with their fast-food packages. But the amount of strategizing they invested into reducing these pollutants is result-yielding and laudable.

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The Styrofoam take-away plates and cups used back in the ‘80s were a major concern for environmentalists, as they were not recyclable and could be found littering almost every street. That was one thing that really needed changing.

Batman Themed Novelty Mugs

Another rather unimpressive classic by McDonald’s back in the ‘90s featured a Batman-themed novelty mug that had images of Batman crested around it. Top marks for the creative thinking, but was it really a necessary hassle?

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This unique partnership was never a bad one, but the endorsement would have been better placed elsewhere that didn’t involve cresting mugs. It didn’t take too long, however, for McDonald’s to realize that Batman was better off fighting crimes on the streets than making poses on mugs.

The Beanie Babies of the ‘90s

Little Beanie Babies were pretty much one of the biggest trends for little girls in the ‘90s. They were so popular that almost every little girl in the block had a set or two. McDonald’s adopted the trend, and it was well-received by customers.

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These Beanie Babies were included in McDonald’s popular Happy Meal as a souvenir for kids, and the tiny cuddle toys worked to put smiles on the faces of little girls. This fun souvenir was discontinued, but it did leave quite an impression.

Longest Spoons Ever Made

To be honest, we didn’t see this coming. But isn’t it the same with pretty much all of McDonald’s specials? This invention introduced many of us to the longest spoon we have seen, almost 3-times the length of a regular spoon.

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The mysterious spoons were meant to be used for turning drinks from a distance. But the product was discontinued for unclear reasons. Perhaps, they discovered that the spoons were being used for other activities.

Ronald McDonald Plastic Hand Puppet

This was a hand puppet made from plastic and given out as a souvenir, but it had one very distinctive feature that made it very unique. All the hand puppets had the scarier version of Ronald McDonald’s face on them, and it wasn’t a very friendly sight.

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Another downside of these hand puppets is that they were made from a thick plastic material that generates lots of heat. And it was not very convenient as it makes your hand all sweaty after wearing it for just a little time. It was a total failure, and McDonald’s knew it.

The McDonald’s Children Parties

Back in the day, McDonald’s hosted several parties for kids, and they were all sorts of fun. Lots of party games were present at these parties, and it was almost every kid’s dream to be invited to one of these. You got to make new friends and eat cheeseburgers and fries together.

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Although they could get rowdy sometimes, and some children cried that they missed home, there was no doubt that these parties were fun and appreciated by most of the children. It’s a shame they had to be discontinued eventually.

The Dinosaur Hand Puppets

Who could blame McDonald’s for popping up with another hand puppet classic? After all, hand puppets were very much appreciated by the kids as they got to put them on and mimic their favorite characters from their favorite cartoons.

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But you can trust McDonald’s to always put in a plot twist, and boy, does he always deliver! This time, the hand puppets were shaped and designed like dinosaur heads. They were certainly an upgrade from the Ronald McDonald plastic puppets and were made from quality materials.

McDonald’s Fancy Collectable Cups

Don’t go rolling down the curtains on McDonald’s yet, as they always find new ways to rock your world, or at least that of your children. In the ’80s, McDonald’s came up with another idea that the kids couldn’t resist: the fancy collectible cups.

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Say what you may, but kids back then did not question the sight of Miss Piggy on a motorbike or the stylish Kermit the Frog riding a bicycle. All they cared about was that the cups were fancy enough, and they came with shakers in them.

The Sketchy Cover Photo

McDonald’s once felt the need to display all their mascots in all their glamour and artistic majesty. It was an album cover, and it featured Ronald, the ducks, thieves, the balls with eyes, and a whole lot of others that we find very difficult to identify.

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Most of these mascots have been discontinued. Perhaps, their contracts ran out, and they refused to renew because Ronald was taking too much of the spotlight. However, that cover photo from back in the day is one of the sketchiest we have seen today.

The Halloween Costume Buckets

If you think you seen it all with the Halloween chicken nuggets, hold tightly to glass because McDonald’s was certainly not done. The next Halloween merchandise they introduced were the mini buckets painted for Halloween. Although it was a little less appealing than the nuggets, it was equally dramatic.

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The Halloween buckets received similar reviews to the chicken nuggets, and kids were also excited to get them. The colors and designs on the buckets were quite attractive, and they did prove useful for collecting trick-or-treat candies during Halloween.

The McDonald’s and Garfield Collaboration

After the tag team with Batman didn’t go so well, McDonald’s came up with another combination hoping that it would fare better. This time, the partnership was with the famous Garfield, and McDonald’s did not hesitate to make this partnership public by making fancy cups and mugs.

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It was really creative from McDonald’s and their artists, as they found a way to blend Garfield’s mischievous look into a more family-friendly cartoon. That was a highlight, as it made this partnership more acceptable than the previous one.

McDonald’s Taps With Secret Drinks

Our love for McDonald’s back in the day was legendary, but it was always motivated. McDonald’s always had something for the kids to enjoy, and one time in the ‘90s, it was a tap that dispensed secret flavors of sweetened water.

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It was creepy because we did not know what was in it, but since we knew it was always stuffed with one sugary-flavored substance or the other, we didn’t care much to know what it actually was. Sure, if we have another opportunity, we still would not give it a second thought.

Extra Large Ice-Cream Cones

We all loved ice cream growing up, and McDonald’s knew it. Thus, they blessed us with one of the biggest ice-cream cones we have ever seen. The cones were massive, and the ice cream it held was even bigger, and they were very delicious.

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The only challenge was that it was a bit difficult to lick through the extra-large ice cream without spilling a significant proportion. But there was hardly anything more blissful than having one of these giants on a hot summer afternoon.

The Toy Car Giveaway Season

Remember how the Beanie Babies were every little girl’s favorite back in the ‘90s? Well, it was only normal for the young boys to find their muse, and little plastic toy cars were just perfect. Every little boy wanted one at the time, and McDonald’s knew this.

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Since McDonald’s was always looking up ways to keep the kids happy and satisfied, the little plastic toy cars were the best gifts for little boys and girls alike. McDonald’s toy cars were also special because they had little avatars fixed inside.

The Large, Scary Murals

Talk about unnecessary… the large scary murals McDonald’s once introduced to their stores were huge, terrifying paintings of a typical ‘80s gang on the walls of McDonald’s, and it was so uncomfortable.

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Imagine eating your food and having a gang of big scary murals watching you. It can not get much weirder than that, can it? That was the exact way we felt back then, and McDonald’s had to remove them before they scared away all the customers.

McDonald’s Playground for Kids

Was it just a ploy to keep the kids distracted so they couldn’t notice all the calories they took, or was it a genuine way to help them burn out the calories? Whichever it was, the playgrounds McDonald’s built back in the day worked just fine.

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The sea-saws and the merry-go-rounds were all perfect for the playground, but the metal slide was not the best as you could feel your legs burn on each trip down. Kids didn’t mind them anyway; all they were after was the fun and the snacks.

A Seat With Big Uncle Ronald

Ever wanted some alone time while sitting on a public bench? It doesn’t get harder and more frustrating than that as there is always another person trying to sit too. McDonald’s came up with a solution for this, too, with a bench that had a big statue of Ronald on one side.

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On the plus side, you could now get all the alone time you wanted on the bench without having anybody intrude. But having a big statue of Uncle Ronald sitting next to you and have his hand around your back as you sat there was too creepy to deal with sometimes.

The Soft Indoor Playground for Kids

For parents who thought the outdoor playgrounds and their metal slides were too harsh for their kids, McDonald’s made a more toddler-friendly indoor playground with soft floors and plastic slides, which eliminated the risk of leg burn and reduced any chance of injury for the kids.

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This playground was awesome, and the kids were always ecstatic when they played on it. Parents could also rest easy, knowing that their kids are playing in a much safer environment. The only downside to this playground was that the toys absorbed sweat and grease easily, and the resulting smell was always unpleasant.

The Famous McDonald’s Highchairs

McDonald’s always had a thing for the extraordinary, and we all knew this. But this invention of theirs still took all of us by surprise when it was introduced. It was an unusual highchair covered with designs of Ronald and all the mascot crew.

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We really could not wrap our heads around the motivation behind these highchairs. And let’s not even get started with the excess color on the seats and the mascots in an air balloon. If you think the burger seats were strange, these highchairs were extreme.

Free McDonald’s Ashtrays

Back in the day, smoking was generally an outdoor activity, and there was hardly a need for ashtrays. Therefore, the popular McDonald’s ashtray was not for smoking anyways. But what was it meant for then, and why was it everywhere?

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Well, ashtrays could be found almost everywhere back then, and McDonald’s didn’t hesitate to make one of their own and brand it accordingly. The McDonald’s ashtrays were free, and before long, they were in most homes. If you think of it, it was a genius idea for free marketing in homes.

Introducing the Disney Collectible Characters

Back in the ‘80s, if you wanted to get a snack and a toy along with it, McDonald’s was your one-stop. Once upon a time, you could find all your favorite toy Disney characters in any McDonald’s store, and it was amazing.

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Princes, princesses, heroes, and villains all appeared, and while a few were creepy as usual, others were just magnificent. What’s more? These toys were collectibles, and you get a box along with each Happy Meal you buy.

McDonald’s Super-Sized Meals

When McDonald’s introduced super-sized meals back in the early ‘90s, they gained immediate popularity among fans and customers. The reason for this popularity was not too far-fetched because who wouldn’t want to get an extra-large size of their favorite meal?

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Imagine the satisfaction that comes with those extra pieces of fries and crunchy chips. It was almost the best gift we could have received from McDonald’s, and we could only question why it took so long to come up with such brilliance.

McDonald’s Fun Indoor Party Games

Ever imagine what life would be like without parties to help ease some tension and help us relax? It doesn’t take too much thinking to know that it would not be too far from a disaster. Uncle Ronald and co. knew this, and that’s why they always hosted one party or the other for kids.

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Back in the day, the parties were so much fun, and they had a lot of activities, including games and plays. There were many cards and board games, and it was next to impossible to find a child who wasn’t having lots of fun at these parties.

Puzzle While You Wait

Not all fast food is fast enough, after all! Therefore, McDonald’s devised a way to keep the kids busy while waiting for their snacks to be prepared. It was a card of puzzles, and it was intended as a fun way to wait for your food to arrive.

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The puzzles included classic “follow the line,” word search, and crossword puzzles. All the games were easy to play, but they were equally engaging and worked perfectly to help take kids’ minds away from their hunger while they waited for their food to arrive.

The Old Menu Boards

Take a quick guess how restaurant menus were accessed in the past. Yes, it was often on a big, old board hung on a wall somewhere in the store. You had to go and look up the menu on the wall, then place your order respectfully before taking your seat.

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McDonald’s also had one of these old-fashioned menus hanging on their wall. And although it was stressful to place an order with it compared to modern handbills and e-menus, we certainly miss the low food prices on the board menu.

The Burger Prison for Guilty Kids

If you wanted to be Uncle Ronald’s friend back in the day, all you needed to do as a kid was be on your best behavior, and you would receive gifts from him. But big Ronald also had a gift for mischievous children too: the burger prison.

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The McDonald’s hamburger prison was a common sight in children’s playgrounds, and it was a constant reminder for kids to stay on their best behavior. We never really figured out the real use of the snack jail, but it was really cute, especially with the long nose and blue hat.

McDonald’s Set of Hercules Collectible Plates

McDonald’s has gotten quite a number of decisions wrong and has gone too far with some ideas over the years, especially considering some of their clowns. But one aspect they got perfectly is their Collectible collection for kids; they always had the right sets.

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This set of collectible plates with characters from the famous Hercules movie was both cool and captivating. The paintings on plates were the appropriate mix, and the colors were not too much (which is uncommon, considering some of McDonald’s paintings in the past). They also had some funny write-ups on them.

The Coolest Gift Cards

Gift cards are always cool, and we were always happy each time we got one. A gift card is a small card bought or issued that could be exchanged for goods worth a specific value in a particular store. And when McDonald’s came up with their gift cards in the ‘90s, they were the coolest.

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The McDonald’s gift cards were not only popular for their awesome looks, but they were also available in varieties, including Halloween gift cards, Christmas gift cards, and lots more. They also had awesome prices and were worth their value.

McDonald’s Fisher-Price Fries

This was a discount sales package that McDonald’s introduced back in the day. It had a variety of fries, along with crunchy chicken nuggets. And they also came along with toys and another set of plastic chicken nuggets.

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Although it included more non-recyclable plastic Styrofoam plates for take-away, they were not illegal back in the day, and we didn’t care much either. All we were after was the delicious, discount-priced meal they contained.

McDonald’s Burger Transformers

Following the release of the first Transformers movie back in the ‘80s, every kid was ecstatic about it and wanted a Transformer toy. Again, McDonald’s swooped in to save the day by introducing little burger Transformers as kids’ toys.

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But these little Transformers went down along with other few epic fails from McDonald’s, as every kid wanted to own an Optimus Prime Transformer toy, and no kid wanted to play with the burger Transformers.

The Super Mario and McDonald’s Tag Team

McDonald’s was already famous for featuring superheroes and fictional cartoon characters in the past. And a third collaboration saw McDonald’s team up with the legendary Super Mario, one of the most popular cartoon characters back in the ‘90s.

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While it is quite difficult to figure out the relationship between a fast-food joint and a legendary plumber, this tag team was the best McDonald’s came up with at the time. Maybe Mario often sits for a bite at McDonald’s before heading for the sewers. But we loved the collaboration, anyway, and we loved the board game that accompanied Mario.

McDonald’s “Westward Ho!” Trailer

Whether it ends as weird, strange, fun, or amazing, McDonald’s deserves plenty of kudos for the amount of creativity they always put into their innovations. This time, it was a trailer-shaped food joint, and it was named “Westward Ho!”

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Westwood Ho! is the name of a small village in England, and yes, it had the exclamation mark. Either this truck was a cheap representation of the town here in the States, or it was headed there (that is, if it could move).

McDonald’s Titanic Food Outlet

No, there wasn’t a mix-up of any sort in the title of this slide. McDonald’s actually did mimic the great Titanic with the introduction of a big, white floating food outlet. McDonald’s built a branch on the shore; now, how’s that for creativity?

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It was a great way to enjoy the delicacies that McDonald’s had to offer, along with the beautiful natural view of the sea. However, the restaurant was later abandoned for reasons we do not know. Perhaps, big Uncle Ronald eventually got seasick.

The Classy Staff Uniforms

I’ll tell you one thing you are sure to see when you walk into any big restaurant today: fancy staff uniforms. These uniforms did not just become trendy today; they have always been so for several years, and McDonald’s was one of the pioneers of this trend back in the day.

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McDonald’s staff uniforms were considered one of the best in the ‘80s, and each staff was proud to put on this uniform and serve delicious meals. The uniform was colorful apparel with colorful stripes on the arms and shoulder regions. It also came with a unique tiny hat.

The First McDonald’s Restaurant

Remember that the famous McDonald’s did not just become popular overnight. It all started as another restaurant on the south side of California that served delicious fast foods, like fries and burgers, in the neighborhood.

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Back then, it was just a simple unit restaurant operated by Ronald and Maurice, and they offered one of the best services for very affordable prices. Now, the business has grown so much, and it is almost impossible to keep track of how many McDonald’s branches there are. But the fries are still as delicious as they used to be.

The Introduction of the McFlurry

The McFlurry drink was a McDonald’s classic introduced in the late ‘90s. This drink was quickly available in McDonald’s outlets, and it was very popular for its wonderful taste.

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The McFlurry soon became everyone’s favorite, and before long, it was all everyone wanted after a stressful day at work. But the drink was hardly ever available in outlets, and we were always greeted with one excuse or the other each time we ordered our favorite drink.

Breakfast at McDonald’s

Breakfast at McDonald’s is another of McDonald’s specials that we always looked forward to. They had the best breakfast menu you could ever imagine, and the fact that we couldn’t identify most of the food in the meal wasn’t a hindrance at all.

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The scrambled eggs looked almost as delicious as they tasted; the pancakes were just the right amount; and the burger was specifically made with pancakes. No matter how often we had breakfast at McDonald’s, it is always a treat.

Good Morning Coffee Mugs

There are only a few morning treats that can be compared with a warm coffee to start your day. And you could always count on McDonald’s to spice things up. The good morning mugs came in handy for cheering people up while they took gentle sips.

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The mugs were made of ceramic, but they were just the right size and weighed appropriately too. What’s more? These mugs were collectibles, and you could have as many of them as you wanted.

The Drive-Thru McDonald’s

If we thought we had seen enough of McDonald’s creativity, we couldn’t have been further from the truth, as Uncle Ronald and co. always had something cooking up. The Drive-Thru McDonald’s of the late ‘90s was a blockbuster idea, and here’s why.

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It was an economical way to open a restaurant. And the fact that cars could only pass through eliminated the need for a parking lot, tables, and cleaners. It was a stroke of money-saving genius from McDonald’s.

Ronald McDonald’s Halloween Mask

Remember the popular McDonald mascot? That was a Ronald McDonald look-alike, and the smiling face was a perfect costume for Halloween. McDonald’s knew about this, and they made lots of face masks for kids to use as their Halloween costumes.

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The smiling face of the Ronald McDonald mascot became a trendy Halloween costume in no time, and McDonald’s opted to use it as their welcome sign. It wasn’t a great fit, however, as the smile on Ronald’s face was rather too mischievous.

McDonald’s Early Packaging Styles

When McDonald’s started as a restaurant, they had some sublime but straightforward packaging styles and patterns. The most popular was a paper wrapping for chips and fries that had a smiley face on it.

Photo by Ralf-Finn Hestfot/Corbis/Getty Images

The design was white paper with minimal painting on it, but that was back in the day before they introduced the famous Big “M” sign and new fancy package papers. Indeed, change is constant, and perhaps, these changes were necessary for McDonald’s to become the big brand it is today.