McDonald's wants 50,000 restaurants by 2027

The burger giant plans to rapidly speed its unit growth in the coming years while it uses Google Cloud technology to connect restaurants and improve operations.
McDonald's is planning a dramatic increase in development in the next few years. | Photo courtesy of McDonald's.

McDonald’s plans to operate 50,000 global restaurants by 2027, a goal that would accelerate its unit development both in the U.S. and internationally and result in the fastest period of expansion in company history.

The goal was part of a set of announcements in advance of the Chicago-based burger giant’s Investor Day presentation on Wednesday.

The company said it also wants 250 million loyalty program members by 2027 and also plans to use Google Cloud technology to improve operations inside its global restaurants and set the stage for more automation.

“We have a clear trajectory for future growth as we continue to build on the brand strength, global footprint and digital ecosystem that have resulted in unparalleled competitive advantages and cemented McDonald’s as one of the world’s leading consumer-facing brands,” CEO Chris Kempczinski said in a statement.

McDonald’s has been pushing for faster unit growth, in the U.S. and abroad, over the past two years. It kicked off a $250 million investment in recruiting new operators in late 2021 and earlier this year lured Tabassum Zalotrawala to lead domestic development efforts.

But getting to 50,000 locations by 2027, just four years, would represent the fastest growth rate in company history.

McDonald’s operated just under 41,200 global restaurants as of Sept. 30, according to SEC filings. Getting to 50,000, another 8,800 locations, would require the company average 2,200 net new units a year until then. The company added a net 1,218 locations globally over the past 12 months.

In the U.S., McDonald’s added just 24. It operates 13,549 restaurants. But the plan clearly calls for an acceleration of domestic restaurant development. The company plans to open 1,000 new locations, not counting for closures, in its biggest markets annually by 2027.

McDonald’s said it plans to focus its marketing on core menu offerings, notably the Big Mac, the Quarter Pounder, Chicken McNuggets and its fries. It also noted that 17 of its menu items are brands in their own right that are worth $1 billion or more.

The company plans to deploy its “Best Burger” initiative, an effort to improve its regular hamburgers and Big Macs, in more global markets. And it wants to expand its McCrispy chicken lineup to feature wraps and tenders.

Some of McDonald’s biggest efforts will be in digital. The company announced a partnership with Google Cloud to use generative AI in its restaurants around the world. The company said it would accelerate automation innovation from equipment manufacturers and would enable restaurant general managers to spot problems and work on solutions before they disrupt business.

The company also said that it would reduce complexity for workers and ensure customers get their food hotter and fresher.

McDonald’s also said it would deploy universal software for its digital platforms to run next year on its mobile app and in-store kiosks. The company said that the new operating system will enable faster innovation and more stability.

Loyalty is a big goal for the company. McDonald’s wants between 150 million and 250 million members of its MyMcDonald’s Rewards program by 2027. Loyalty is a huge effort on the company’s part, as loyalty members spend more money per visit and visit more frequently.

As part of the announcement, McDonald’s increased its expectations for system sales growth related to unit growth beyond 2024. It expects unit count growth ranging from 4% to 5% per year. 

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