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McDonald's vs CosMc's: 5 Major Differences

McDonald's created CosMc's, but there are a few key ways in which the brands differ.

If you've been at all tuned in to the world of fast food in the past six months, you've probably heard lots of talk about a chain called CosMc's. This brand-new spinoff concept was created by one of the world's preeminent fast-food chains: McDonald's. So, as you can probably imagine, the buzz around CosMc's has been pretty wild.

McDonald's opened the very first CosMc's location in Bolingbrook, Ill., in mid-December 2023 to massive fanfare. The lines of cars were so long that police were on site to help direct traffic. I braved the lines myself a couple of weeks after it opened to try the menu and ended up waiting nearly two hours before getting my order.

According to the foot-traffic analyst firm, data suggests that CosMc's saw more than twice the number of guest visits in comparison to a typical McDonald's restaurant in 2023. also noted that CosMc's traffic numbers probably would have been much higher "if the location had additional capacity to satisfy the overwhelming demand."

So, CosMc's is evidently already very popular, but what is it? McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski has often described it as a "small-format concept with all the DNA of McDonald's but its own unique personality." There are a few key ways in which the new brand diverges from its parent chain, so read on for the five major differences between CosMc's and McDonald's.

The menu

CosMc's menu items
Matt Schwerin for The Washington Post via Getty Images

McDonald's menu items are some of the most recognizable ever in the world of fast-food: burgers, Chicken McNuggets, French fries, breakfast sandwiches, hash browns, Happy Meals, and, of course, the famous McFlurry. You'll find almost none of them at CosMc's.

CosMc's menu is primarily focused on beverages—and many speculate that the brand is meant to compete with Starbucks. Customers can choose from a plethora of different specialty lemonades, coffees, teas, slushes, and blended drinks with flavors that range from basic to wildly unique. Some of the zanier options include the Sour Cherry Energy Burst, Island Pick-Me-Up Punch, Turmeric Spiced Latte, and Churro Cold Brew Frappé. Customers are encouraged to make their drinks their own by customizing them with popping boba, flavor syrups, energy shots, or Vitamin C shots.

Despite the emphasis on drinks, there is a limited selection of food. The offerings mostly consist of small bites and snacks, including hash brown bites, pretzel bites, filled donut bites called "McPops," ice cream sundaes, a Spicy Queso Sandwich, and a Creamy Avocado Tomatillo Sandwich. CosMc's also serves McMuffin sandwiches, the Oreo McFlurry, and the M&M's McFlurry—the only items that come straight from the McDonald's menu.

 The Best & Worst Orders at CosMc's, According to a Dietitian

The mascot

CosMc alien
@PhakeNam / YouTube

Quite like its menu, McDonald's mascot is an iconic one in the fast-food universe. Ronald McDonald, the ever-friendly clown who's always clad in eye-popping yellow and red costumes, has been appearing in McDonald's advertisements for decades. However, the company decided to go a very different route when selecting a figure to represent its new beverage-focused concept.

McDonald's named the new chain after CosMc, a bright orange alien with six arms. The fictional extraterrestrial appeared in McDonald's ads throughout the 1980s and 1990s, so the name may not ring any bells for the burger chain's younger fanbase. In one vintage ad from the 1980s, CosMc visits McDonaldland from outer space and attempts to steal a basket of McDonald's food from Ronald McDonald, Grimace, and a bearded character called the Professor. After Ronald McDonald foils CosMc's attempt at thievery, the group sits down to enjoy the food together.

According to the CosMc's website, the alien eventually succeeded in stealing McDonald's menu items from McDonaldland and began experimenting with them in another galaxy. CosMc also developed beverages that would not only complement the food, but also "stand alone as the perfect mood boost for all beings." He began serving those drinks and bites to fellow aliens, and then decided to bring the menu down to Earth. Thus, the CosMc's brand was born. 

The ordering process

CosMc's menu board

At McDonald's, customers can truly pick their poison when it comes to placing an order. You can roll through the drive-thru, place a mobile order through the app ahead of time, head inside and use a digital kiosk, or do it the old-fashioned way by speaking with a real human employee at the cash register.

Meanwhile, CosMc's customers can currently only order via drive-thru. I know from my own adventure to CosMc's that you drive up and encounter a bright digital menu board, place your order via intercom, and then use a point of sale at the menu board to pay cashlessly. You're instructed to wait at the menu board while your food and/or drinks are being prepared, then the screen flashes the number of the window where you can pick up your food once it's ready.

The CosMc's website promises that a mobile ordering feature is coming soon and the brand will also reportedly get its own app, so customers can expect to have more ways to order in the future.

 18 Discontinued McDonald's Items Customers Want Back


McDonald's restaurant
Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock

To say that McDonald's has a massive footprint would be a grand understatement. The chain currently boasts more than 40,000 locations in over 100 countries across the world. As of January 2024, there were more than 13,000 McDonald's restaurants in the United States alone, according to the data company ScrapeHero. The company has no plans to slow down when it comes to expansion anytime soon. McDonald's is aiming to reach 50,000 locations worldwide by 2027, which it says will be the "fastest period of growth" in its history.

    CosMc's footprint pales in comparison to McDonald's. The Bolingbrook restaurant is the only one that has opened so far, though McDonald's plans to add about nine more pilot locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio metro areas of Texas by the end of 2024. How those locations perform will likely influence if and how McDonald's plans to grow CosMc's in the future. If the long lines and impressive traffic CosMc's has been seeing are any indication, Americans certainly have a big appetite for the concept.

    Store format

    CosMc's drive-thru lanes
    Scott Olson/Getty Images

    A typical McDonald's restaurant offers customers several ways to enjoy their food. Most locations boast a drive-thru lane or two for on-the-go customers who want to grab their orders as fast as possible. Customers can also order ahead and pick up their food inside the store or at the drive-thru. However, McDonald's customers don't necessarily need to get in and out as fast as possible. Many stores still have indoor dining rooms where customers can sit down and eat on their own time if they so desire.

    Meanwhile, CosMc's store format was developed specifically with the on-the-go customer in mind. The Bolingbrook store features an impressive four drive-thru lanes and a few pickup windows where customers can speedily grab their orders. There's also no dining room and guests aren't allowed inside, so they have to enjoy their food and drinks elsewhere.

    Even the CosMc's color scheme differs from McDonald's. The Bolingbrook CosMc's is mostly decorated in deep blue with its name scrawled on the building in retro yellow script. Unlike at a traditional McDonald's, you won't see any red or the brand's distinctive Golden Arches, either.

    Zoe Strozewski
    Zoe Strozewski is a News Writer for Eat This, Not That! A Chicago native who now lives in New Jersey, she graduated from Kean University in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Read more about Zoe