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10 Major Changes McDonald's Made in 2021

This year, there has been plenty of news from the Golden Arches.

McDonald's easily piques our collective interest when it comes to menu additions, discontinuations, and generally any changes that affect an average customer. And this year, there has been plenty of news from the Golden Arches.

Here are some of the biggest changes McDonald's has made in 2021—and how they affect you. And for more, check out 20 McDonald's Secrets Employees Don't Want You to Know.

Launched three major new sandwiches

mcdonalds chicken sandwich
Courtesy of McDonald's

Given that the McChicken simply wasn't cutting it for crispy chicken sandwich lovers, McDonald's started the year by debuting three new chicken sandwiches. The Crispy Chicken Sandwich, the Spicy Crispy Chicken Sandwich, and The Deluxe Chicken Sandwich were all introduced in February, adding some steep competition to the Chicken Sandwich Wars. All three sandwiches feature a new thicker and juicer chicken fillet.

And while these still may not be on the level of Popeyes of Chick-fil-A, McDonald's reported a huge boost in traffic thanks to the new items.

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Closed down locations inside big-box stores

mcdonalds in walmart

The chain began winding down its big-box partnership with Walmart and closed hundreds of its restaurants inside Walmart locations. The pandemic had wreaked havoc on in-store shopping and dining, so the chain took the opportunity to shut down restaurants that depended on customers being on-premise and focused its efforts elsewhere, like the drive-thru.

According to CNBC, some 150 nationwide McDonald's locations will remain inside Walmart stores (down from a peak of 1,000 a few years ago.)

Added Hi-C Orange back to the menu

mcdonalds hi c
Courtesy of McDonald's

Just in time for the summer, McDonald's brought back the long-awaited Hi-C Orange to its soda fountains. The drink was discontinued in 2017 after being on the chain's menu since 1984—and garnering nationwide fandom.

Tested AI-based ordering at drive-thrus

mcdonalds drive thru

Most fast-food chains dabbled in testing technological advancements this year, and McDonald's was no different. The chain announced that it's looking to remove all human interaction from the drive-thru lane by introducing AI-based order processing. However, implementing the voice-recognition technology is still in very early stages—testing began with only 10 locations in Chicago, and CEO Chris Kempczinski noted it may be a while before it's rolled out on a larger scale.

Raised the bar on celeb collaborations

bts meal mcdonalds
Courtesy of McDonald's

It all started with the mega-successful collaboration with Travis Scott in 2020 for McDonald's to know the strategy of partnering with mega celebs was a goldmine. This year, they only kicked things up a notch, by launching as many as four celeb meals—with J Balvin, Saweetie, BTS, and, most recently, the queen of Christmas herself, Mariah Carey. In fact, the BTS meal was so popular that it caused a record-shattering boost in weekly traffic at the chain.

Rolled out its biggest loyalty program nationwide

mcdonalds app

This year, McDonald's introduced its biggest loyalty program yet. My McDonald's Rewards allows customers to start earning points with each McDonald's purchase, which ultimately means free food down the line—something the chain has never before offered as a loyalty reward in the United States.

Added the first new McCafe item in a decade

Courtesy of McDonald's

McDonald's introduced three new items to the McCafe bakery lineup—the first baked goods innovation in a decade. The Apple Fritter, Blueberry Muffin, and Cinnamon Roll joined the longstanding Chocolate Chip Cookie and Apple Pie as permanent McCafe pastry items.

Raised prices by 6% compared to 2020


McDonald's customers may have noticed that the fast-food chain raised its prices by 6% compared to 2020. This price increase will stay at the same level through at least the end of 2021, and it's to cover rising labor and commodity costs, according to McDonald's CEO Chris Kempczinski. So get used to paying more at Mickey D's.

Launched its first-ever plant-based burger

mcdonalds mcplant
Courtesy of McDonald's

McDonald's has been talking about its plant-based burger for a while now, and the item finally made its debut in the United States. Unfortunately, it's currently only being tested in eight McDonald's locations in Irving and Carrollton, Tex., Cedar Falls, Iowa, Jennings and Lake Charles, La., and El Segundo and Manhattan Beach in California.

And while these are the only locations in America to offer the McPlant, several European countries—Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, and the UK—have already gotten to try it.

For more, check out the 108 Most Popular Sodas Ranked By How Toxic They Are.

Rachel Linder
Rachel is an Associate Editor responsible for compiling the daily Eat This, Not That! newsletter, making TikTok and YouTube videos for the brand, writing articles for the site, creating original graphics and providing direct assistance to the editors when needed. Read more about Rachel