CosMc's Is Already Blasting Off

McDonald's new drive-thru beverage concept has proven wildly popular.

Becoming "beverage-focused" is a savvy move in fast food. The chain formerly known as Dunkin' Donuts famously changed its name to emphasize its menu of drinks as much as doughnuts. And as part of its summer menu rollout last year, Wendy's released a whole lineup of new lemonades in various flavors. Now, McDonald's has one-upped its competitors by launching CosMc's, an entirely new restaurant concept dedicated to sips on the go. So far, CosMc's only has one location in Bolingbrook, Illinois, but that location seems to be off to a very strong start.

A Reddit post from the early opening days showed cars that waited for upwards of three hours. When we visited the location for a taste test, we waited for an hour and a half to try the new menu, which features fruity mocktails and slushies not unlike those available at Sonic. (CosMc's doesn't have a cherry limeade, though.) Despite CosMc's relatively small menu, residents of this Chicago suburb—as well as the countless people who traveled from far away to get a taste—seem to think the offerings are out of this world, and they keep going back for more.

CosMc’s is wildly popular

According to data from analytics firm Placer.ai, CosMc's is busier than the nation's traditional McDonald's locations—and by a lot. The new restaurant concept served what Placer.ai dats suggests is more than twice as many customers as a typical Mickey D's within the same time period, and likely would have been able to serve more if the space were larger, as CosMc's is about 2,500 square feet smaller than a normal McDonald's.

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The report even compared the level of CosMc's hype to October's three-way promotional crossover between Raising Cane's, Post Malone, and the Dallas Cowboys. And much like the chicken chain's trotting out of Malone, McDonald's is using CosMc's to lure younger customers. Apparently, it's working, as the data indicates the new concept is a hit among guests in their twenties and early thirties. The pilot is going so well, in fact, that McDonald's plans to open 10 new CosMc's locations this year.

Personally, I don't quite understand is why McDonald's needs a new concept to appeal to young people. McDonald's, as I've always understood it, is for on-the-go people who don't want to spend a lot of money. As a young person who identifies as both, it seems like I would be McDonald's ideal customer. But apparently I'm way off base, as data shows that the average McDonald's customer is a middle-aged, upper-middle-class white woman in the South.

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McDonald's has tried a few different ways to compete with the likes of Starbucks, its closest rival. It launched NYC's first "McCafe"-style location back in 2017, and now most of the city's McDonald's have been updated with the new, elevated look that prominently features coffee and pastries. The chain even debuted a whole new all-day pastry lineup in 2020, which has since been discontinued. And now, the company has debuted a whole new, separate restaurant chain just to focus on elaborate drinks. Why not just add these new beverages to the McDonald's menu at the existing restaurants?

Apparently, there's a simple answer: It would be way too complicated. McDonald's whole business model thrives on efficiency, simplicity, and speed, and as an analyst told CNN, adding a bunch of customizable specialty drinks to the operation would slow everything down. McDonald's experienced those exact headaches when it introduced all-day breakfast in 2015, which might explain why CosMc's, not McDonald's, is where you can now score all-day McMuffins.

If things keep going the way they are, perhaps CosMc's will soon be as ubiquitous as Dunkin' and Starbucks. We'll see if Americans decide to add Sour Cherry Energy Burst to their morning routine.

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