McDonald's has a new idea that customers will love (or really not love at all)

How would you like your McDonald's? Technology offers endless possibilities, but is this a good one? Perhaps.
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Is it for real? Yes. You're going to be lovin' it.

Screenshot by ZDNet

Where do you see yourself in five years?

It's a question interviewees often get asked.

It's a question big brands ask themselves every day.

You can't stand still because your competitors won't stand still. And if we're all constantly moving, that's America, right?

This brings me to one of my -- and America's -- favorite subjects: McDonald's.

The burger chain has been a touch behind on the technological front, yet is now moving fast. Robot order-taking at the drive-thru, anyone?

Yet one development may truly raise several hairs on the faces of McDonald's most committed customers.

You see, McDonald's has quietly been filing trademarks for its future in the, oh, metaverse.

As spotted by trademark attorney Josh Gerben, it appears McDonald's is securing its place in the next world, just in case you're going to be there too.

The New World. The Old Ways.

Many might observe that it's always worth securing your place in the next world. It's called religion.

So how do you like the sound of "entertainment services, namely providing online actual and virtual concerts and other events"?

The McCafé as a concert venue? You've dreamed of this.

But here, perhaps, is the most adorable concept: "Operating a virtual restaurant featuring actual and virtual goods, operating a virtual restaurant online featuring home delivery."

If that isn't meta, what is?

You're trying to disappear into the new virtual world, where you can wander legless and have so much fun. But your real self is hungry. McDonald's understands this deeply, so your virtual self can order your real self a Big Mac and fries.

Isn't that the most modern definition of a happy meal?

The wild corners of McDonald's imagination don't stop there. There are also "Online retail services featuring virtual goods."

When your real Big Mac satiates you, making you feel at one with both your selves and the brand, what better gesture can you make than to order a virtual Big Mac so that your virtual self can partake of the experience?

I Want My NFT (And Fries).

But we're not talking non-fungible Big Macs, are we?

We certainly are.

Another McDonald's trademark application declares: "Virtual food and beverage products. Downloadable multimedia files containing artwork, text, audio and video files and non-fungible tokens."

There was a time you wanted your MTV. Now, you must want your NFT.

This all makes perfect business sense, of course. McDonald's is sanely bracing itself for humanity's embrace of the inconsequential and its proclivity to embrace the sadly trivial over the deeply necessary.

It's ensuring that if this metaverse thing really does become big, McDonald's will have a big presence on every one of its street corners.

Moreover, how much more inviting will it be for you to go to a (virtual) McDonald's and not have to wait in line at the drive-thru?

And how much more uplifting will it be to walk into a (virtual) McDonald's and find it fully staffed?

In effect, the McDonald's metaverse could serve as a perfect vehicle for your burgers to come from a virtual kitchen -- and not from your local McDonald's at all.

Of course, there isn't just one metaverse, even though the mime-artists formerly known as Facebook would like you to believe it's all theirs.

So your Metadonald's could appear in whichever meta-universe you choose to roam.

There's another moving aspect to all this. The pandemic has created a surge in takeout and delivery orders. But, as a new Morning Consult report reveals, it's younger, wealthier customers who are behind that surge.

So much so that millennials are four times more likely than boomers to order takeout or delivery multiple times a week. And you thought it was boomers who were lazy and had the most money.

You might imagine, then, that it's the younger sorts who will be less averse to the metaverse. Ergo, the money will be there.

Once a habit is ingrained, it can be hard to shift. The penchant for ease over in-restaurant dining is currently strong.

Then again, the metaverse-peddling tech industry may be looking at all this through rose-tinted goggles. If there's one habit that will not be easily ingrained -- and is entirely unappetizing -- it's wearing those absurd VR masks all day.

The need for escape is one thing. But the need to not look and feel ridiculous is quite another.

That's why McDonald's has always offered a very simple, real-world, life-affirming solution to an immediate problem.

Being meta isn't always better.

Editorial standards