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Kristina Tipton

Director, Market Research at Near

4 mins read

A Tale of Two McDonald’s: How Different Locations Impact Visitor Patterns

Sometimes it’s hard to beat a Big Mac. In our recent look at where Javits Conference Center attendees went while they were in NYC, we found that McDonald’s was their favorite spot for a bite to eat. In fact, 10x more conference goers went to McDonald’s than trendy chains Five Guys and Shake Shack. 

And one major contributor to McDonald’s dominance in footfall is the fact that the chain is all over the place – they have over 250 locations in the Big Apple alone. And locations can make a huge difference – not only in how many there are, but where they are. This is why site selection is a critical decision for any restaurant chain or retailer.

To understand more about the impacts of location, we looked in depth at the two most popular McDonald’s for Javits Conference Center visitors. We looked into the patterns of visitation by time of day & day of week, visitor origin, and more to learn more about the two locations just 9 blocks from each other:

  • 490 8th Avenue, between 34th and 35th Streets – across from Penn Station
  • 688 8th Avenue, between 43rd and 44th Streets – around the corner from the Majestic Theater, home to “Phantom of the Opera” on Broadway

While these two stores are just .4 miles apart, they see very different patterns based on where they are. Here’s what we found:

When do the restaurants see the most visitors?

The two restaurants see very different patterns for peak visitation. The McDonald’s at 490 8th Avenue, near Penn Station (in blue), generally sees higher traffic on weekdays, with Wednesday and Thursday as its busiest days. Additionally, that location sees high traffic throughout the morning and into lunch, before trailing off for the evening. The data paints a picture of this store being a popular spot for commuters, with them stopping by McDonald’s for a coffee or bite to eat on their way into the office and running out for a quick lunch. This makes a lot of sense for a location next to Penn Station, which is a huge transit hub for both subway and trains.

Meanwhile, the McDonald’s up the street at 688 8th Avenue (in red) sees very different patterns. This location sees higher traffic on weekends, with Friday and Sunday as its busiest days. Instead of the morning and lunch rush that the other location gets, this location does its best business in the early evening, with peak hours between 4-7pm. These patterns can likely be explained by the restaurant’s location in the heart of the Broadway Theater District, and just around the corner from the long-running Phantom of the Opera. This location is perfectly situated to serve theater-goers in search of a quick meal before their showtimes.

Visits by Day of Week
The McDonald’s near Penn Station (blue) peaks during weekdays, while the one in the Theater District (red) peaks over the weekend
Visits by Time of Day
The McDonald’s near Penn Station (blue) peaks in the 8am-12pm window, while the one in the Theater District (red) is busiest from 4-7pm

Where did visitors come from?

When we look at the home locations of visitors to the two McDonald’s, we similarly find a big disparity. The McDonald’s at 490 8th Avenue (across from Penn Station) sees 85.0% of its diners coming from New York City itself. Compare this to the other location in the Theater District, which sees just 69.5% of its diners from New York City – meaning more than 30% of the audience it serves are tourists from markets including Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Sacramento, and Miami.

Visitor Home Locations
85% of visitors to the McDonald’s near Penn Station are from the NYC area
Visitor Home Locations
Just 69.5% of visitors to the McDonald’s in the Theater District are from NYC

What are the affinity brands of visitors?

In addition to the patterns and origins of visitors to the two McDonald’s being different, the visitors also are likely to enjoy different brands. At the McDonald’s near Penn Station, some of the top brands diners visited are office chains like FedEx (3x more likely to visit than average) and Staples (2.3x more likely to visit). They also frequent other QSRs including Five Guys (2.3x more likely to visit), Chipotle (1.8x more likely to visit) and Starbucks (1.5x more likely to visit).

Meanwhile the visitors to the Theater District McDonald’s are more likely to eat at other restaurants around Times Square including Dallas BBQ (4.4x more likely to visit) and Olive Garden (1.2x more likely to visit).

Location, Location, Data

These snapshots show how two successful restaurant locations can be successful for entirely different reasons and with entirely different audiences. One is situated next to a transit hub and around office buildings and appeals to commuters. The other is in a tourist hotspot near a major attraction and brings in theater-goers and tourists. They see different busy days and times, different visitor origins, and different brand affinities for visitors, even though they’re less than a mile apart. This illustrates why data is so key to understanding customer profiles, patterns and more to inform optimal business decisions for both marketing and operations.

Want to learn more? Check out Near’s How-to Guide to Site Selection Using Consumer Behavior Data, or get a demo.

Study Methodology

Near studied visitors to the McDonald’s locations at 490 8th Avenue and 688 8th Avenue in New York City over the past year (December 15, 2021 – December 15, 2022. Reports used included Estimated Visitors, Common Evening Location, Brand Affinity, and Pinnacle Reports around footfall.

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