Can A McDonald’s Be The Center Of A Community?

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart

When thinking about a place that serves as the center of a community, you might think of a church, a community center, or even a park. You probably don’t think about a fast food restaurant. But for thousands of people in hundreds of cities around the country McDonald’s has become a gathering place of choice. 

While we’re keenly aware that a McDonald’s can be a great meeting place for groups of people to meet — you may recall the beef between a group of Korean seniors and a New York McDonald’s that thought the group was lingering too long — but The Guardian shines a bit of light on just how integral the Golden Arches can be for communities.

With its ample seating, free WiFi, and inexpensive menu, the restaurants have become a safe and welcoming place for individuals to gather in low- and middle-income neighborhoods.

From the retired men — calling themselves the “Old Folks’ Home” who gather in corner of a New Mexico McDonald’s to the homeless woman who walks into a Louisiana location at 9 a.m. each day for hours of coffee and reading, the fast food eatery is now much more than a place to grab a quick bite; it’s become a place of common ground and acceptance.

“I love McDonald’s. People are so nice. My friends come here. I see everybody. Coffee is good, and cheap,” a man who meets at a the Louisiana location tells The Guardian.

Guests at a Texas McDonald’s say meeting at the fast food joint has helped them in ways they didn’t expect.

For example, retirees have become the regulators at a Sulfur Springs location, discussing their lives and their pasts.

Two of the last to leave are a man and a woman, one a widower, the other a widow. They tell the Guardian that meeting at the location has helped them support each other through the deaths and other hardships.

“I look composed on the outside,” the woman says. “Many of us do. But I struggle a lot on the inside. This community here gives me the support to get by.”

The homeless woman who visits the Louisiana McDonald’s every day says she’s drawn by the kind staff and camaraderie she often finds in other guests.

“I have had a very rough life. Been through a lot. My present situation leaves me without a home between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m., and McDonald’s is kind enough to allow me to sit here.” she says.

McDonald’s has also become a community meeting space for groups to discuss their cities or their religious beliefs.

In Kansas City, MO, a group gathers every Friday morning to discuss their city and the political environment. When The Guardian visited, the group was expressing its frustrations around the Black Lives Matter movement, all while the restaurant went about business as usual.

Across the country in New Mexico, a McDonald’s also serves as home to a bingo game on Tuesday nights and a Bible group that offers free Bibles and prayers to anyone who wants one on the weekends.

“We come here every Saturday, and set up in this corner,” the leader of that group tells The Guardian. “The McDonald’s offers us room for whoever shows up. We have the space to gather and pray.”

McDonald’s: you can sneer, but it’s the glue that holds communities together [The Guardian]

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