Once again McDonald’s has claimed the top spot on NRN’s list of the 50 biggest restaurants in America, towering over its competitors with a whopping $39.53 billion in 2020 sales. Even though McDonald’s is the dictionary definition of an industry titan, it still had to get clever in order to thrive during the food industry’s annus horribilis. The chain made big moves like introducing a new line of chicken sandwiches and embracing the power of celebrity collaborations—something the chain hadn’t done since the fabled McJordan Special of 1992.
Last September McDonald’s released a limited-edition combo meal “curated” by Travis Scott featuring a Quarter Pounder with bacon, shredded lettuce, and cheese; fries with barbecue sauce for dipping; and a medium Sprite. Though on the surface there is nothing particularly special about that meal, Scott’s endorsement made it so popular that some restaurants began running out of the ingredients to make it. Weeks later came the J Balvin Meal, which was equally unimpressive on paper (Big Mac, medium fries, Oreo McFlurry), but thanks to the celebrity endorsement, McDonald’s made a shitton of money.