Fast food goes big time with Viva McDonald’s

Upholstered chairs. Vases with fresh flowers. A lounge area that looks like it belongs in a coffee shop. High-tech video screens broadcasting family-friendly fare.

With apologies to another fast-food chain: This isn’t a fast-food place. It’s Viva McDonald’s.

Well, yes, Viva McDonald’s — set to open at 11 a.m. Thursday at 2896 Las Vegas Blvd. South — will serve McDonald’s food, which, however you slice it, is undeniably fast food. But customers will eat it in an environment that feels like anything but … well, a McDonald’s.

Borrowing from the contemporary stylings of Starbucks and the ever-growing counter-service restaurant industry, Viva McDonald’s has unexpected design accents including faux-leather easy chairs and saucer chairs, pendant lighting, framed artwork, textured walls, sliding louvered structures on the windows, electrical outlets for plugging in your laptop and wireless Internet access (for a fee, although the company promises that coupons for free access will be frequently available).

The centerpiece is a large oval communal table crowned by a ring of 14 video screens that will debut McDonald’s Channel, carrying content from the Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet and the Science Channel. There also are four large screens on the front exterior of the building — which can be used separately or in synchronization — and another atop the tall outdoor sign.

The restaurant is almost monumental in scale at 8,600 square feet, compared to 4,000 to 5,000 square feet for an average McDonald’s, and has two cooking lines, compared to one in the vast majority of the company’s outlets across the country, said Steve Ballard, senior area supervisor.

Ballard said the design elements and size were part of the plan to make Viva McDonald’s a destination, "not just a place to get a Big Mac." In the same way that visitors to Las Vegas feel compelled to see the Fountains at Bellagio, he said, the company wants them to feel a need to visit Viva McDonald’s.

One of the company’s nine outlets on the Strip (plus two more downtown), the new one replaces the 25-year-old store just to its south. Ballard said that acreage will become part of Boyd Gaming’s Echelon Place.

Josie Kleinick, manager of both the old and new outlets across from the Riviera, said after the old outlet closes tonight, its employees — some of whom have worked there as long as 15 years — will begin their next shifts in the new location.

So are they excited?

"What’s a bigger word than excited?" Kleinick said. "They’re wowed."

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474.

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