McDonald’s, the famous American fast food chain, goes by a different name in Paris, France. While it’s known as McDonald’s almost everywhere else in the world, in Paris they call it “McDo.”
Why the Different Name?
There are a few theories as to why McDonald’s is referred to as McDo in France:
- It’s a shortened, French-sounding nickname for McDonald’s. “McDo” sounds more French than the lengthy, English name.
- “McDo” is easier for French speakers to say than “McDonald’s.” In French, it’s tricky to pronounce those back-to-back “D” sounds.
- The French language prefers short, abbreviated nicknames. Calling it McDo rather than the full McDonald’s fits with French naming conventions.
- “Do” means two in French. Since McDonald’s is known for their two all-beef patties in a Big Mac, the “Do” may be a reference to this.
Whatever the exact origin, the French have embraced “McDo” as the unofficial local name for McDonald’s restaurants in Paris and throughout France.
When Did McDo First Appear in France?
The very first McDonald’s in France opened in Strasbourg in 1979. By 1988, France had 28 McDonald’s locations. The nickname “McDo” emerged sometime in the 1980s as the chain rapidly expanded across the country.
Some key dates for McDonald’s in France:
- 1979 – First location opens in Strasbourg
- 1980s – “McDo” nickname first appears
- 1988 – 28 locations nationwide
- 1995 – 100th restaurant opens in France
- 1999 – Opens along the Champs-Élysées in Paris
- 2011 – 1,200th location opens
- 2022 – Nearly 1,500 restaurants nationwide
So while Americans visiting Paris will be looking for the familiar golden arches, locals will simply refer to “McDo” when craving a Big Mac or McCafé.
McDonald’s Menu Differences in France
While the core McDonald’s menu is basically the same in France, there are some slight differences to cater to local tastes:
- Camembert Cheeseburger – Features camembert cheese instead of cheddar or American cheese
- McBaguette – A French-style sandwich made with a baguette
- Beer – McDonald’s in France serves beer, which is uncommon in the U.S.
- Macarons – McCafes in France sell French macarons as a specialty dessert item
Some popular American McDonald’s menu items like the Filet-O-Fish and biscuits are not sold in French locations. And of course you can expect to find wine and other classic French cuisine options at McDo restaurants in Paris.
How Widely Used is McDo in France?
The McDo nickname is used extensively in France. It’s rarely referred to as McDonald’s. Even McDonald’s own internal branding and signage uses McDo extensively.
Some examples of how entrenched McDo is in the local lexicon:
- TV commercials refer to McDo
- Newspaper ads tout the latest McDo promotions
- Billboards advertise McDo value meals
- Google Maps labels all locations as McDo
- Job listings search for McDo crew members
- McDonald’s sponsored events are McDo events
So travelers headed to Paris or elsewhere in France should look for McDo rather than scanning the horizon for the characteristic McDonald’s golden arches logo. It may be McDonald’s in the rest of the world, but in Paris they’ll be calling it McDo.
Do They Speak Franglais at French McDonald’s?
Franglais is a slang term for the blending of French and English words in conversation. Since McDonald’s originated as an American brand, you may be wondering if they speak Franglais when ordering at a French McDo.
While some Franglais terms have emerged, the vast majority of McDonald’s restaurants in France conduct all business in French. Employees greet customers in French, take orders in French, and use French terms for menu items. Let’s look at some examples of Franglais at McDo:
- Le McDo – using “le” as a French article in front of the English borrow word
- Le cheeseburger – French article “le” combined with the English sandwich name
- Le Big Mac – Another example blending French and English
- Le self-service – Using “le” and French cognate word “service” before the English term
- Le fast food – French article plus English food genre
These limited Franglais terms tend to appear most often in advertising slogans geared towards young people. In daily face-to-face ordering situations, standard French is used nearly exclusively at McDo restaurants in Paris.
Has McDo Been Controversial in France?
Yes, the arrival of McDonald’s and its quick service model caused some controversy in French culture during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Some of the tensions included:
- Concerns that the invasion of American fast food would undermine France’s culinary tradition and way of life
- Belief among some that McDonald’s represented unhealthy eating and was contributing to obesity
- Accusations that fast food jobs would replace local French labor practices and policies
- Protests by French farmer groups over the types of crops and cattle needed for McDonald’s supply chain
- Redesigned locations to have a more upscale, cafe-style interior design
- Hired French celebrity chefs and spokespeople to improve culinary reputation
- Added more traditional French menu options like croissants and macarons
- Increased wages and benefits for French employees to match national standards
- Features more French farms, dairy producers, and ingredients on its supply chain
- Emphasizes the McDonald’s France corporate office based in Paris for local branding and control
- Champs-Élysées – The famous upscale shopping boulevard sports one of the busiest McDonald’s in Paris.
- Latin Quarter – Nestled in an area packed with university students, this location always has lines out the door.
- Louvre Museum – The McDonald’s practically next door to the Louvre and its constant crowds ensures enormous sales.
- Eiffel Tower – There are multiple McDo’s within walking distance of the iconic landmark, popular with tourists.
- Arc de Triomphe – Located at the busy traffic circle, this McDo sees no shortage of hungry visitors.
- Opening more McCafe locations focused on bakery items and higher-end coffee drinks
- New express takeaway and digital ordering options to reduce lines and wait times
- Expanded vegetarian menu selections as France shifts towards more plant-based diets
- Adding local seasonal menu items that leverage France’s strong agricultural bounty
These concerns led to several highly publicized acts of vandalism against McDo locations as well as criticism in the French media. However, as McDonald’s gained cultural acceptance and adapted its menu to French tastes, much of this controversy has died down in recent decades.
How Has McDonald’s Adapted to French Culture?
Besides the obvious change to the McDo nickname, McDonald’s has made many efforts over the years to fit into French culture and customs:
These adaptations to the French market have helped make McDonald’s an accepted element of the country’s fast food landscape over the past four decades.
Where are the Busiest McDo Spots in Paris?
As a major tourist destination, several McDo spots around Paris see millions of visitors every year. Here are some of the hot spots:
Other notable busy McDo spots in Paris include train stations like Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est, as well as locations near tourist attractions like the Moulin Rouge and Notre Dame Cathedral.
McDo Expansion Plans in France
As of 2022, there were nearly 1,500 McDonald’s restaurants in France. This includes over 60 locations in Paris alone. McDonald’s continues to expand and remodel existing restaurants in France, with plans to redesign 300 McDo locations by 2025.
Some areas for growth and expansion in France include:
McDonald’s reported over 2 billion euros in revenue from its France operations in 2021. McDo is here to stay as France’s largest and most popular fast food chain.
So for travelers expecting to see the familiar golden arches and name of McDonald’s in Paris, they’ll have to look instead for the McDo signs. The American fast food icon has been warmly embraced in France after some initial controversy and now blends seamlessly into the culinary fabric of French life. While the core menu remains, McDonald’s in France has successfully localized itself through branding, offerings, and design to become McDo for a whole generation of French customers.