Sweet drinks are the stars of the menu at McDonald’s brand new drive-thrus

A new range of drive-thrus is McDonald's as you've never seen it.

A new range of drive-thrus is McDonald's as you've never seen it. Photo: McDonald's

McDonald’s is trialling a new chain of drive-thrus in the US – and there’s not a burger to be seen.

The company’s new offshoot is dubbed CosMc’s – a reference to a McDonaldland character not used since the early 1990s – while the menu has a heavy focus on sweet, inventively-flavoured beverages.

Think churro frappes, s’more cold brews and berry hibiscus sour-ade with customisation options such as popping boba or Vitamin C shots, alongside a food menu dominated by sandwiches and sweet treats.

The nearest comparable rival to CosMc’s is likely Starbucks, which has a large drive-thru presence throughout the US, and is known for offering a wide selection of flavoured coffees and teas alongside the standard options.

The news that McDonald’s is launching a new brand to focus on beverages and cafe-style food may come as a surprise, given McCafe is already well-established.

The fast food chain claims one in every four coffees sold in Australia is from a McCafe, and a cursory glance at the menu leaves the impression that there is plenty of room for new additions.

But Roger Simpson, founder of consultancy The Retail Solution, told The New Daily that McCafes haven’t seen the same level of success in the US.

By introducing a completely new brand, he said, McDonald’s is likely to try and shake up the market and turn it in the company’s favour.

The choice of items on CosMc’s menus also seem to have higher profit-margins, adding to the appeal for a whole branch of drive-thru restaurants dedicated to drinks.

The drinks trend is towards colourful and sweet. Photo: TND/McDonald’s

The type of drinks on offer have the extra bonus of appealing to a younger and diverse demographic, who like to try new flavours and textures, as seen with the growing popularity of bubble tea, which CosMc’s popping boba nods to.

“[CosMc’s is] playing to an increasingly geo-diverse audience in terms of demographics across the world,” Retail Doctor Group CEO Brian Walker said.

“It’s playing to trends like bubble tea … it’s playing into the … relative success of Starbucks [in the US]. So it’s playing very much in that faster, takeout beverage-centred market.

“I don’t think it in any way replaces the existing McDonald’s brand, but because their brand is so strong – it’s probably [in the] top five global brands – it’s another channel or avenue for them to play in.”

Australian rejection not guaranteed

The first CosMc’s location will open in Bolingbrook, Illinois, this month, with 10 trial locations set to launch across the US by the end of 2024.

McDonald’s has yet to make any decisions about further expansions within the US or internationally.

But if CosMc’s does eventually touch down in Australia, Walker said there’s a good chance it will find more success than the failed Starbucks foray, thanks to the company’s likely “massive” expansion budget and a focus on sweet beverages rather than classic coffees.

Today, Starbucks has 65 stores in the eastern states of Australia, signifying a slight boost after lack of interest from Australian coffee fans led to the closure 61 of an initial 84 stores across the country in 2008.

“We pride ourselves on our coffee culture, and I just don’t think the taste of a Starbucks coffee was aligned with Australian tastes, so they really struggled,” Simpson said.

“But you can see in the range of [CosMc’s] products, it doesn’t actually say much about coffee at all…I’m sure they’ll offer traditional coffees as well, but the focus on the marketing is all around the sweet drinks, which is interesting.”

While the American side of the company is busy rolling out a new brand, back in Australia, McDonald’s is facing a $100 million class action by 25,000 allegedly-underpaid workers.

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