Shedding light on its long-awaited and oddly secretive CosMc’s concept, McDonald’s on Wednesday finally shared more about the café pilot, which seems to be its answer to Starbucks.
It was weirder than expected.
Over the summer, McDonald’s teased the test of a new restaurant concept.
We knew then that CosMc’s is named for a little-known McDonald’s character, an alien introduced in the 1980s. We also learned that CosMc’s “is a small-format concept with all the DNA of McDonald’s but its own unique personality,” in the words of CEO Chris Kempczinski, who discussed the concept during an analyst call in July.
On Wednesday, Kempczinski finally revealed more during an investor event. Late in the day, he made the Steve Jobsian intro: “There is one more thing. CosMc’s.”
“What would happen if a McDonald’s character from the 1980s that was part alien, part surfer, part robot — what would happen if this character were to open a restaurant in 2023?” Kempczinski asked.
The answer: The robot-surfer-alien would open a Starbucks rival with even more indulgent drinks, and name it after himself.
McDonald’s wants to get into the specialty coffee business, an “attractive and fast-growing category,” Kempczinski said. But, he added, McDonald’s can’t just add a bunch of new drinks to its regular menus – it would complicate kitchen operations and slow service down.
So it’s testing the new concept to see if people will swing by CosMc’s during their afternoon slumps to buy a churro frappe, s’mores cold brew, sour cherry energy burst, or another customizable beverage.
With CosMc’s, McDonald’s seems to be looking at Starbucks’ playbook — a focus on cold, sweet beverages that can be modified to taste.
Kempczinski warned investors not to get too excited: CosMc’s is still just a test. So far, there’s one location opening in Bollinbrook, Illinois, this week. Through the first half of next year, McDonald’s plans to open nine more locations, all in Texas.
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