Patrick Norguet

Forget tacky counters and mass-produced booths. This French McDonald's offers a sleek design for the modern family

In some ways, the rise of the McDonald’s franchise was directly linked to several of Modernism’s initial aims, perhaps most evidenced with the fast-food giant’s espousal of standardized methods of production and the literal and figurative transparency with which they were implemented. As we all know, McDonald’s spread throughout the world not on the merits of its culinary hubris but on the strength of its stated goal: the same food at the same price would be eaten in the same restaurant in every corner of the world. The first restaurants were all glass boxes, hermetically sealed from the grime and uncertainties of everyday life. Inside, you ordered your food, watched it being processed, sat down and consumed it – usually in the same time it took to prepare. Towards the end of the 60s, just like modernism, the chain took a post-modern turn, with a complete redesign that yielded the laughably pastiche but highly effective scheme that we all know and love (admit it) today. The company would continue to change, altering menus, promotional content, and even architecture to reflect local taste.

Take France, where most McDonald’s patrons spend twice the amount of money (around $9 a meal) than their American counterparts. As a result, the restaurant chain has integrated new, "contemporary" spaces into the formula. Whereas Americans prize efficiency above all else (in life as in McDonald’s), the French take their time, sampling exclusive items while sitting in custom made booths. The franchise recently commissioned a whole line of interiors to designer Patrick Norguet, who substitutes the kiddy red plastic of yore with a complex palette of materials, from concrete walls to sheet metal surfaces to laser-cut plywood ceilings.

Located in Villefranche-de-Lauragais, 40 km from Toulous, the store is the first in Norguet’s series, which seeks to rehabilitate the image of the McDonald’s restaurant – what has become primarily associated with teens – for the family. Mind you, this isn’t the American definition of the family, which diminishes the familial with the infantile, complete with children-oriented marketing and toy-like spaces. On the contrary, Norguet’s interiors are mature, with splashes of colors applied at intervals of white walls, substantial materials such as plywood cabinets and carefully-chosen upholstery, and even digital screens from which to place your order. Norguet’s own "Still" chairs are ubiquitous. Enclaves of familial privacy are created by means of full-height walls and circular booths, so that families may sit together enjoying their meal.

The sentiment may be applauded, but should we be given any more incentive to eat at McDonald’s? Regardless, the dominance of global fast-food is one of the conditions of our times, and one in which designers have to insinuate critical, intelligent work. Is this it? I’m not sure. But it’s a start.


This article originally appeared at, an Atlantic partner site.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A toxic site in Niagara Falls, New York, seen from above.

    The Toxic 'Blank Spots' of Niagara Falls

    The region’s “chemical genies” of the early 20th century were heralded as reaching into the future to create a more abundant life for all. Instead, they deprived future generations of their health and well-being.

  2. A Soviet map of London, labeled in Russian.

    The Soviet Military Secretly Mapped the Entire World

    These intricate, curious maps were supposed to be destroyed. The ones that remain reveal a fascinating portrait of how the U.S.S.R. monitored the world.

  3. Navigator

    The Gentrification of City-Based Sitcoms

    How the future ‘Living Single’ reboot can reclaim the urban narrative ‘Friends’ ran off with.

  4. Maps

    Mapping Where Europe's Population Is Moving, Aging, and Finding Work

    Younger people are fleeing rural areas, migrating northward, and having fewer children. Here’s how that’s changing the region.

  5. A collage of postcards and palms trees of the Florida shore

    The Archaeologists Saving Miami's History From the Sea

    As the water level rises, more than 16,000 historic sites across Florida are at risk of being drowned by waves. In Miami-Dade County, researchers are working to keep history on solid ground.