McDonald's Chicago flagship restaurant

[Photo: Courtesy of McDonald’s]

Thousands of plants, a vast recycling program, self-order kiosks, and even table service—the new flagship McDonald’s restaurant on Clark and Ontario streets in Chicago is not the Golden Arches of your childhood. Here you’ll even find apple trees, kale, and swiss chard on the roof (if you look).

The new restaurant is an example of the fast-food giant’s commitment to sustainability, with environmentally friendly design that goes above and beyond LED lighting (though you’ll find that, too). The team behind the 19,000-square-foot steel and wood timber construction is seeking LEED certification and aims to not only be a place where you fill up, but maybe where you breathe a little easier as well.

We recently sat down with Max Carmona, the senior director of global restaurant design and development at McDonald’s, to get his thoughts on the project.

mcdonalds chicago interior

[Photo: Courtesy of McDonald’s]

gb&d: What was the biggest challenge going into designing the flagship restaurant?

Carmona: The biggest challenge was the schedule for both design and construction. Our goal was to open the new restaurant for business in the summer of 2018. The team started the conceptual design in July 2017 and was able to complete the project from first ideas to complete and open for business in just 13 months.

gb&d: Looking at the finished project, what is your favorite feature?

Carmona: It’s hard to pick just one feature, but I love the hanging garden and the apple trees on the roof, as well as the outdoor wood platform/table, which was just completed.

McDonald's chicago

[Photo: Courtesy of McDonald’s]

gb&d: Thinking about the iconic Rock ’n’ Roll McDonald’s location this replaces, how does the new building fit into the overall McDonald’s story?

Carmona: While we are proud of our legacy, the new building reflects McDonald’s efforts to continue to modernize our brand. It’s also an example of McDonald’s being rooted in the communities we serve; the River North neighborhood has transformed in the past 40 years, and McDonald’s wanted to transform this location to express the community spirit of this area.

gb&d: What excites you most about the new restaurant?

Carmona: Seeing such a positive customer reaction and excitement as they visit—whether it’s their first time in the restaurant or if this is their neighborhood McDonald’s. We are happy to see people reacting to the transformation and really enjoying the spaces indoors and outside. I like that people are a little surprised that we did it in the way we did. It brings a smile to your face when you see them take out their phones to capture this restaurant in a video or photo to share with their family and friends.


  • 10,500+ plants
  • Vegetated roof space
  • Floating garden
  • Reduced stormwater runoff
  • Cardboard recycling
  • Waste oil recycling program
  • Food donation
  • On-site renewable energy collection
  • Energy-efficient kitchen and HVAC equipment