Why McDonald's PlayPlaces Have Nearly Faded Out Of Existence

Child playing in ball pit
Child playing in ball pit - Kool99/Getty Images

Much like the McDonald's forgotten menu items from the '90s, the restaurant's PlayPlaces are going the way of the dinosaur. People of a certain age remember the unbridled joy a trip to McDonald's would bring. This joy could be attributed to the playgrounds, which featured brightly colored attractions like slides, climbers, and ball pits, which were known to swallow up unsuspecting children (and their belongings). Based on the popularity of McDonald's PlayPlaces, it's a bit surprising that so few of them are left. While there are many reasons for their waning numbers, child safety is a likely factor.

Criticisms of the establishment's failure to document injuries resulting from PlayPlace attractions led the restaurant to revamp its design to make them less hazardous. However, these increased safety measures didn't eliminate another PlayPlace hazard: The ubiquitous presence of illness-causing bacteria. Lab testing performed by a concerned parent showed that PlayPlaces throughout several states contained multiple pathogens. Concerns about the spread of illness at McDonald's playgrounds became even more widespread during the pandemic.

Read more: The Ultimate Ranking Of American Fast Food Restaurants

COVID-19 Resulted In More PlayPlace Closures

McDonald's PlayPlace in daytime
McDonald's PlayPlace in daytime - Wikimedia Commons/Mike Mozart

The COVID-19 pandemic caused substantial changes to how restaurants operated, and McDonald's was no exception. A prime example is McDonald's decision to cease selling salads during the pandemic due to disruptions to the supply chain, preventing the restaurant from accessing the specific type of lettuce it used. The fast-food establishment's dine-in options were also revamped to align with new guidelines intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Along with eliminating dine-in seating, McDonald's locations nationwide closed its PlayPlaces.

It should be noted that PlayPlace closures were intended to be temporary, which indicates that McDonald's anticipated their return once the pandemic subsided. The world's largest McDonald's in Orlando is still open and offers plenty of arcade games, but PlayPaces are becoming rarer to find. People can use the search function on McDonald's website to see if there are any in their area, but it's always a good idea to call in case the website isn't updated regularly.

McDonald's Shifts Focus Away From Young Consumers

Kids eating happy meals
Kids eating happy meals - Madzia71/Getty Images

It's possible that the decline of PlayPlaces also had something to do with concerns about McDonald's targeting young customers. The restaurant has been privy to accusations that it lured children into adopting unhealthy eating habits through marketing. The city of San Francisco imposed restrictions on Happy Meal toys due to concerns about the nutritional content of McDonald's food. Perhaps in response, the chain eventually adjusted its Happy Meal menu to include healthier options (such as apple slices and low-fat milk).

If you've ever wondered what happened to Ronald McDonald, this child-friendly mascot was likely sidelined to avoid accusations similar to those of San Francisco city officials. That could also explain the slow but steady demise of PlayPlaces, many of which were phased out as McDonald's updated its physical locations. Additionally, less than 10% of McDonald's customers dine inside the restaurant. When considering all these factors, it doesn't make sense for the chain to offer playgrounds to children.

Read the original article on Daily Meal