Humans have always been fascinated with the "-est". That's why people travel for miles to see the world's tallest building, the world's longest bridge, the world's largest ball of string. That's why people are willing to buy tickets a year in advance and queue for hours to watch the highest, fastest, and strongest athletes compete in the Olympics.
That's why I was so excited to find out that McDonald's had built the world's largest restaurant for the Olympics -- and that I was going to get the opportunity to visit. McDonald's invited my family and I to a day at the Olympic Park and lunch at the World's Largest McDonald's with Rick Wion, McDonald's Director of Social Media, and Molly McKenna Jandrain, McDonald's Director of PR.
The world's largest McDonald's restaurant is located inside Olympic Park in East London, just a few hundred feet away from the Olympic Stadium (note, there is a second McDonald's restaurant inside the Olympic Park, on the other side of the Olympic Stadium, but it's much smaller; there's no doubt about which one is the world's largest). The entire building measures 32,292 square feet, which is quite a bit bigger than the previous recordholders, McDonald's in Orlando, FL and McDonald's in Vinita, OH (29,135 square feet).
The exterior is minimalist, not garish at all, and very modern, which blends in well with the rest of the modern structures throughout the park. There is a sizeable exterior area with both shaded and sunny seating.
When you enter, the first thing you notice is the crowds. I guess it's fitting that the world's largest McDonald's would draw the world's largest crowd (seating capacity is 1,500) and form the world's longest lines. It was almost 1PM, and the lines were out the door!
Despite the crowds, the lines seemed to move pretty quickly. Servers moved down the lines taking orders in advance, so that by the time you reached the cash registers and paid, your order was ready and waiting.
And despite the crowds, we had no problem finding seating on the second floor.
The interior is gorgeous -- clean, simple and modern. I know, I know, you're thinking, that's only because it's a brand-new restaurant and because they want to impress all the Olympic visitors -- but actually, all the McDonald's I've been to in the UK during this trip have redecorated, and they all have this cool-cafe look.
Seriously, does this look like a fast-food restaurant or a trendy eatery?
We found a whole table to ourselves and sat down to enjoy a meal featuring local menu items like Chicken Legend (like McChicken, but served on a whole-wheat subway-style roll), Deli Wrap, McFlurry with Cadbury Wispa Gold, and Happy Meals with carrot or fruit bags and Fruitizz flavored sparkling water.
While we were eating Molly shared some really interesting bits of trivia about the World's Largest McDonald's:
* The 500 servers at the restaurant are McDonald's "best-of-the-best" employees, and have been flown over from around the world.
* The current local Olympics promo -- free Coca Cola glass and coloured Olympics wristband with every large meal or premium salad -- is not available at this restaurant. because it's real glass and security restrictions are in effect throughout Olympic Park.
Most interestingly, Molly told us the whole building will be dismantled after the Olympics are over, and every item will be either reused or recycled after the Olympics are over. Every piece of furniture, every fryer, every light fixture, every length of cable and wire has been tagged and will live a new life in another McDonald's restaurant -- about 75% total -- and nearly everything will be recycled. They have really planned ahead with the goal of reducing waste -- even the the "tiles" in the restrooms are actually wallpaper, because it would be impossible to dismantle real tiles without shattering them. It's good to know that the world's largest McDonald's won't be turning into the world's largest pile of rubble!
Disclosure: Thanks to McDonald's for providing lunch at McDonald's, tickets for my family to enter the Olympic Park and tube passes to get there. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.