Why no playground at Burger King and Wendys?

I know that some Burger Kings and Wendys[sup]TM[/sup] have playgrounds but the majority do not. McDonalds[sup]TM[/sup] are the opposite, the majority have playgrounds. I prefer BK or Wendys over McDonalds, but if I want to take my son to eat and play I have no choice but McDonalds. Why do BK and Wendys give up all this business to McDonalds? I know playgrounds can be expensive, but McDonalds does not have a problem building them.

Perhaps BK and Wendy’s have realized the effort it takes to clean those germ-infested ball bins out. It looks like those things are full of plastic balls, but it’s really only a few floating on a pool of urine, I bet.

It’s called “market niche”. McDonalds has a market niche as “fast food for kids WITH a playground”. Burger King has a market niche for “fast food for kids, but hey, grownups can eat here, too–see, we’ll prove how serious we are about catering to adults by having NO playground.” Wendy’s market niche is “Hi, we’re Wendy’s and we’re for grownups.”

You didn’t mention Hardees. Hardees’ market niche is, “We’re Number 2 when it comes to fast food for kids, but sometimes we try harder and put in a playground.”

[psst–actually it’s because of all the lawsuits regarding the hypodermic needles in the ball bins…]


I don’t know any of this for certain, it’s just a possible option. I work for McDonalds. I cannot speak for Burger King and others.

Playlands are a big liability. Besides the risk of a kid getting hurt, there’s the whole Board of Health thing. At my last store, a child pooped in the pit, and not only was the BOH all over us, so was the media. It didn’t look too good for business. Playlands are expensive to maintain, as you can’t just ignore them like you could a broken table or something. And, there’s the whole hypodermic needles in the balls thing…

A lot of the newer McDonalds are choosing to go the ‘outdoor patio’ route, rather than build a playland. It could be that they just got tired of people losing those damn plastic balls, or they could’ve just wisened up and realized how dangerous playlands can be. It’s sad too, cuz I adored the ballpit at my last store, and used to spend hours in there when not working. When they tore down the building and rebuilt it, I cried as they ripped down the ballpin. Those damn outdoor patios are nothing in comparison.

One other thing to consider; MacDonalds has THE CLOWN! I think the icon of Ronald MacDonald pulls kids to their resturant with this image of fun times. None of the other fast-food chains have this sort of icon. Burger King tried something similar back in the late 60s and early 70s with this beard jovial image of “The Burger King” but it didn’t go over anything like Ronald MacDonald.

Tie in the concept of “MacDonald’s Land” with Ronald and you have a perfect marketing scheme to hook youngsters to fastfood.

[Moderator Hat ON]

This is more of a General Question than a Great Debate, so I’m moving it to that forum.

[Moderator Hat OFF]

I think Pammipoo is on to something; my WAG is that playgrounds used to be more or less mandatory for McDonald’s restaurants, but these days it doesn’t seem to be as common. In general, it seems like the newer McDonaldses (i.e. the last 10 or 15 years) don’t seem to have playgrounds, and the ones older than that do. At least in my personal experience, anyway.

I suspect that in the case of Burger King, at least, it’s just at the discretion of individual franchisees to build/not build a playground, and not a directive from corporate. At least one Burger King here has made it their ‘market niche’ to go after the “families who want a playground” demographic; according to their billboards along the interstate, it is home to the “World’s Largest Indoor Playplace”…though I’m not exactly sure if that’s verified by Guinness, ifyaknowhatimean. It’s quite an impressive sight - it’s an intricate nest of kid-sized slides, tunnels, etc., that’s probably a good 3 stories tall. Must be a nightmare to get in there to clean up the pee.

Dunno where you live, but here (East Cost) the playgrounds are a rarity. The vast majority of McDonalds’s that I’ve been to do not have playgrounds.

A Burgerking in my hometown has a playground. Granted its not as grand and glorious as the McDonalds version, but it does have cojone… err, I mean balls.

I know of at least ONE other BK with a playground… somewhere along I-95 between Disneyland and Vegas if you want to check it out. Ummm… in the city with the worlds tallest thermometer.

as an aside… I had a friend in highschool who worked in one of those “kids play tunnel palace” type of places. He said they had a big machine they put the balls through to clean them. It was always the job of the newest employee to clean the filter.


Here in Dallas the Burger Kings have playgrounds, and Wendy’s don’t. I think it is more of a marketing thing. McDonalds positions itself to attract kids. BK and Wendy’s typically attract adult customers.

I have to question wether most McDonalds have playgrounds. I know of exactly two that do (and exactly two Burger Kings that have them for that matter). And that’s out of at least seventeen McDonalds I can think of. Come to think of it, both of the McDonalds are next to Toys backwards “R” Us stores (both of the Burger Kings are at Interstate off ramps.

I suspect that playgrounds are up to the franchisee and they make the policy decision on if and where they go.

Only McDonaldsTM used to target kids as their main customers and rake in the big bucks. Now the others are getting wise to the fact and doing the same, witness the toys add ons that Burger KingsTM and Dairy QueenTM are offering.

Those playgrounds cost a lot and if you’re a franchisee you probably don’t want to put one in. It’s not really not going to increase the bottom line as far as sales go. If you have to eat you have to eat. It’s $4 to play the one at the local kid’s Wizard Fun CenterTM, but only the cost of a Coca-ColaTM or an apple pie at Burger KingTM or McDonaldsTM to play that tube thing. By the way, that tube slide thing is fun, I can still get in it even I’m big. Hurts my knees though and I have to yell “Coming through!” to prevent flattening kids at the bottom of the slide.

Anyway, the main reason is McD’sTM is marketing to kids.

Interesting thread. I’ve been reading a lot about McDonald’s lately. Somehow, it keeps cropping up in various books and websites.

Anyway, when Ray Kroc bought the franchise rights to McDonald’s restaurants from the McDonald brothers, he was a great success for four main reasons:

  1. Putting the damn things absolutely everywhere and insuring that all food was prepared like a factory so it was fast, efficient and always the same.

  2. McDonald’s French fries ALWAYS tasted the same due to Kroc’s very strict specifications on the growth and storage of potatoes. Other places at the time that served fries couldn’t always garauntee that they would have the right amount of crispiness, creaminess, etc.

  3. The _____ millions/billions sold campaign. Apparently, it was a great sales tool. If you believe the McDonald’s corporate bigheads, sales increased by a notable percentage once Kroc implemented that campaign. Presumably this was because people who had yet to try the artery-clogging food would see the sign and say, “hey, if they sell that many, they’ve gotta be good!”

  4. And this is the important one for this thread… Kroc went out of his way to target the restaurant to children. He was essentially taking advantage of the ‘scream until daddy stops the car’ factor by adding a happy clown and his magical land of McDonald’s food where even the MEALS are happy! Yeah, you thought a burger, fries and a coke were a quick dinner when you don’t have time to cook? Guess again, pal. They’re HAPPY, got it? HAPPY! Anyway, along with the happy meal, the clown (who replaced the former ‘Speedy the Chef’ as the official McDonald’s mascot), Kroc did something really innovative… he put a playground in the restaurant! That way, McDonalds was shown as a fun and safe place where parents can take their kids to play and socialize and while they’re at it, spend kajillions on burgers, fries, shakes, McSalad Shakers (am I the only one disgusted by those?), etc.

I have no idea about Burger King and Wendy’s foundings, but IIRC, both restaurants only started hard-core marketing to kids within the last 10 years. I don’t seem to remember either restaurant having a kid’s meal when I was of kid’s meal age. In fact, the only draw to Wendy’s for me as a kid was the fact that the hamburgers were oddly square and the tables had those old-fashioned newspaper ads on them. I don’t ever remember even considering Burger King as an eating place until I was a teenager.

I hardly see Dave (the owner of Wendy’s and the progenitor of the owner/actor commercials) as a hard-core marketing tool to kids unless you know something I don’t know. Heck, I don’t see Dave as a marketing tool to anyone, except for 50’ish middle American white guys and they’re hardly the best customers for this artery clogging stuff. Their ad agency should be fired.

Actually, I hear the Dave Thomas campaign has been wildly successful on account of he’s an all around likable guy. Lemme call up my ad wizard buddy and get the scoop.

IIRC, Dave Thomas’s ads had a great novelty factor when they first came out and spawned a wave of copycat owner-as-actor-ads, none of which had any style and the worst of which is the Sleep Country ones. Yeah, that awful lady. The ones where they try to fool you into thinking you’ll get a good deal because the mattresses were last year’s patterns, as if that mattered. How fake can anyone get?

But getting back to the subject, tell me this. Sure Dave Thomas is a likeable guy, I even watched his biography on A and E. But when your kids see his ad do they scream and shout and say “Let’s go to Wendys?” For that matter, what segment of the population jump up, scream and shout and say “Let’s go to Wendys?”

I see Arby’s now markets itself in Canada as “real food for adults”. Kids are too smart to eat that crap, eh?

And I like Wendy’s. It’s second only to Harvey’s.

I hate to bring this up, but one of the local Burger Kings where I live has a playground. Actually, there is a Chic-Filla that has a playground as well, and that is fantastic. Also, there is a clothing store in th smaller of our 2 malls, and it has a giagantic swingset and slide for the kids to play on while their mums shop…it’s a crazy world out there, and someone’s gotta play on it…

My roommate, who does not drive, has a Pavlovian reaction to, “I’m heading out to Wendy’s” or “Wanna go to White Castle?” These fast-food restaurants are three to four minutes away, on foot, yet Tyler will only go if driven – and he’ll eat like a locust.

It’s somewhat scary.