For whatever reason, someone, somewhere, decided that fast food restaurants, like sports teams, need mascots. It’s something that we’ve all just accepted as a fact of life. While many of these mascots have risen to celebrity status, if we’re being completely honest, when choosing which fast food restaurant to eat at, where we end up has a lot more to do with the food they serve than which mascot represents them. That being said, some fast food mascots have been around for so long that they’re inseparable from their restaurants. You really can’t have one without the other. They give us all the best fast food advertisements and, more often than not, they allow for some serious comic relief. But some of them hit the mark more than others. To help separate the good from the bad, we’ve put together a list of our ten favorite fast food mascots of all time.
10. Jack – Jack in the Box
For seventy years, Jack in the Box has been a favorite among fast food fans, particularly those living on the West Coast. While the majority of its 2200 restaurants are located in the West, Jack in the Box, and its famous mascot, Jack, can be found in big cities all over the United States. In the restaurant’s television commercials, Jack is depicted as the CEO, founder, and representative of the company. From the neck down, Jack is a man like any other. His head, however, is more similar to that of a snowman. This version of Jack and his iconic yellow clown cap have been repping Jack in the Box since the mid-nineties, but the character’s origins go back further than that. Through the sixties and seventies, the chain’s mascot was a massive clown head dubbed Jack. He was dropped in 1980, in an effort to make the brand seem more “mature”. Jack’s eventual return and transformation in the nineties came about as the result of an E. Coli scandal earlier in the decade. His changed appearance was chalked up to the “miracle of plastic surgery”. The hope was that his reinstatement as the face of the brand would signify a new leaf in the restaurant’s history and would help everyone move on from the messy business that almost destroyed it.
9. Bee – Jollibee
This mascot is probably the most good-spirited one on the list, but they’re probably the last one you’d want to mess with. Jollibee is a Filipino fast food chain with several locations worldwide. The restaurant, which is best known for its fried chicken meal, has a mascot named Bee. Introduced in the early eighties, Bee was meant to display optimism and joy, making restaurant goers feel very welcome and at ease in Jollibee. As is made evident by the name, Bee is an anthropomorphic bumblebee. Human-sized and colored red and yellow, Bee is usually depicted wearing a chef’s hat and a suit jacket and bowtie. As friendly as he looks, Bee isn’t to be taken lightly. Staying true to nature, Bee has a stinger that could probably do some significant damage if he wanted it to. If you find yourself wondering why Bee looks so familiar, it may be because Mickey Mouse was used as inspiration in the character’s design. From Bee’s shoes to his face shape, you can definitely see the Disney influence. The fact that Bee unconsciously reminds people of Mickey Mouse is another point is his favor, because who doesn’t love Mickey?
8. Where’s the Beef? Lady – Wendy’s
Typically known as the “Where’s the Beef? Lady”, this Wendy’s mascot is actually named Clara Peller. When Peller accepted a role in this Wendy’s promotional campaign in the 1980s, she probably didn’t realize that she would still be known in households across America nearly forty years later. In this commercial, Peller was given a hamburger from a fictional Wendy’s competitor. The burger was served in a giant, fluffy bun, as promised by this fictional establishment’s slogan, “Home of the Big Bun.” The two other elderly ladies featured alongside Peller in the commercial poked at the fluffy bun, saying irately that it “certainly is a very big bun”. They eventually dissected the burger, to reveal a miniature hamburger patty. The reveal was so upsetting to the ladies, that Peller exclaimed angrily: “where’s the beef?”. And the rest is history. Since then, the question “where’s the beef,” has become a common turn of phrase, used in contexts completely unrelated to Wendy’s or hamburgers. The fact that Peller is still recognized as one of the most iconic fast food mascots of all time is made all the more impressive by the fact that she hasn’t starred in commercials since the eighties. A few years ago, Wendy’s answered the longstanding question in a new advertisement campaign, where they announced: “here’s the beef.”
7. Cuppy – Dunkin Donuts
Out of all the mascots included on this list, this is probably the one who gets the least love. For some reason, Dunkin Donuts’ mascots don’t get nearly as much attention as the mascots of other fast food chains do. And it’s a shame, because this mascot is one of the best. You might not have known this, but Dunkin Donuts actually has two mascots. Of course, there’s the donut, Dunkin Donut, but today we’re going to be focusing on his best friend, Cuppy. Cuppy looks identical to the cup in the Dunkin Donuts logo. Well, if you ignore the arms, legs, and face, that is. So maybe not all that identical. But he is a tall white coffee cup. That is, when he’s not appearing in his iced coffee form. Cuppy has a healthy respect for seasonal fashion and knows that when the weather gets warmer it’s time for him to trade his white attire for clear plastic and ice cubes. Whether he’s appearing in his hot or iced coffee form, you’re always guaranteed that Cuppy will be in a good mood. This mascot is famous for being happy-go-lucky, and with good reason. Their name might put all the focus on the donuts, but anyone who knows Dunkin knows that their coffee is the real deal. No wonder Cuppy’s always in such a good mood, when he’s beloved from coast to coast!
6. Little Caesar – Little Caesar’s
Little Caesar has been around as long as the restaurant he represents. He started out as a sketch on a napkin and quickly rose to mascot status. The cartoon Roman has been tweaked slightly over the years, but, all in all, he hasn’t changed all that much since the mid-twentieth century. Originally the restaurant’s silent hero, Little Caesar was given the famous phrase “Pizza! Pizza!” in the eighties. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s not what he says, it’s how he says it. The mascot’s tone is bright and humorous, and it turned the simple two-word exclamation into a timeless saying. While we more than approve of the Little Caesar mascot, it’s probably safe to say that Julius Caesar, the historical figure from which the brand takes its name, would be pretty offended by this cutesy caricature. Considering his roles as a military general dictator of the Roman Republic, he’d probably take this depiction as a major blow to his street cred. But the cheesiness is what makes Little Caesar so endearing. And the cheese is what keeps us coming back for the pizza.
5. The Hamburglar – McDonald’s
When he was first introduced in the early 1970s, the Hamburglar was a thing of nightmares. Luckily, the creators quickly realized that the character looked less like a mascot who was supposed to appeal to children, and more like someone off of a 10 Most Wanted List. They completely revamped him. The Hamburglar we all know and love looks more like a Muppet on the run from the law. His crime? Stealing every hamburger he can get his hands on. Unfortunately for him (but luckily for the rest of us), he isn’t usually successful in his ventures. Despite the fact that he’s arguably one of the best fast food mascots out there, this version of the Hamburglar has hung up his cape. McDonald’s brought him back a few years ago, but instead of a puppet, he’s live action. Even more disturbing, he’s been described as hunky. This updated version of the Hamburglar hasn’t reached the level of popularity of his impish, Muppet counterpart. And judging by how iconic the latter incarnation of the Hamburglar got over his forty years of thieving, he’s not going to be surpassed any time soon.
4. Wendy – Wendy’s
You can instantly spot a Wendy’s a mile away, thanks to its mascot, the young girl who gave the restaurant its name. Wendy’s founder, Dave Thomas, drew inspiration for the brand’s mascot from his eight-year-old daughter. Yeah, the rest of us got Legos and Barbies for our eight birthdays. Wendy Thomas got an entire fast food restaurant chain dedicated to her. As a result, she became one of the most recognizable faces in America (well, her eight-year-old face is recognizable, we don’t know if we could pick her out of a crowd now that she’s nearing sixty). The Wendy mascot started off as just a logo for the brand but, eventually, Wendy Thomas starred as her in the restaurant’s commercials. That’s about as authentic as a mascot can get. The real Wendy might have grown up, but the mascot designed after her is frozen in time. This mascot has been around for so long that she’s inseparable from the fast food chain. You can’t have one without the other. Thomas’ decision to design the brand’s mascot after his daughter is decidedly wholesome and makes the restaurant’s atmosphere all the more welcoming.
3. Colonel Sanders – KFC
Like the Wendy’s mascot, KFC’s Colonel Sanders was based on a real person. This time, the inspiration was the restaurant’s founder, Harland David Sanders (sounds like a Dukes of Hazzard character, doesn’t he?). Sanders was given the honorary titles of Kentucky Colonel in 1935, thanks to his culinary contributions. Sanders might’ve sold off the fast food chain after thirty years in the business, but the mascot he inspired stuck around. Sanders was an active ambassador for the brand right up until his death, and continued to make appearances in his famous white suit while battling cancer. He was incredibly dedicated to KFC, and wanted to ensure that customers always had the best experience possible. You can see why he was chosen to be the face of the company. More recently, the fictional version of Colonel Sanders has been shoved into the spotlight of KFC advertisements. In the past, his personality has kind of taken the back seat, but now is his time to shine. Often portrayed by comedians, the opportunities for humor are endless. But in the end, it’s the friendly, familiar face that keeps us coming back for more. After all these years, it would be impossible to trust anyone else to satisfy our KFC cravings.
2. The Burger King – Burger King
Making Burger King’s mascot a literal king was the only logical decision. Out of all the mascots on this list, the Burger King is probably the one who’s gone through the most transformation. Back in the fifties, when he was first introduced, the Burger King was an elderly monarch in a lopsided crown, who was usually depicted sitting on a burger and holding a fountain drink nearly as big as he was. Throughout the sixties and seventies, he was transformed into a caricature of a king, and given the gold and red royal uniform that the mascot continues to be seen in today. The next iteration of the Burger King was the first to be proportioned like an actual human being. Today’s version of the mascot is the most similar to this last one. The only difference is that today’s iteration of the Burger King is portrayed by a real person, instead of being animated. Since he’s been around for so long, the Burger King has wormed his way into our hearts. That being said, this version of the Burger King is the creepiest by far. It probably has something to do with his rubber mask. Creepiness aside, the most recent iteration of this mascot is the most detailed by far. His luxurious robes are incredibly detailed, and his crown even has the fast food chain’s logo printed on it. Regardless of which design of the Burger King is your favorite, you can’t deny that the restaurant wouldn’t be the same without him.
1. Ronald McDonald – McDonald’s
With how popular McDonald’s is, it’s no surprise that it makes this twice for not one mascot, but two. When you hear the phrase “fast food mascot”, there’s a good chance that the first thing to come to mind is the only clown that doesn’t scare us half to death. McDonald’s has had a lot of mascots over the years, but none of them have ever come close to reaching the level of fame of the original. We are, of course, talking about Ronald McDonald. The red haired, yellow jumpsuit wearing clown hasn’t been around quite as long as McDonald’s, but the restaurant hadn’t been around long when Ronald McDonald first appeared. Ronald McDonald isn’t just the McDonald’s mascot. He also has the honor of being the fast food chain’s Chief Happiness Officer (or CHO). Not only that, but he’s also the face of the Ronald McDonald House Charities, a non-profit organization that strives to promote the wellbeing of children. All these reasons together are what have earned Ronald McDonald the number one spot of the list of our favorite fast food mascots of all time. He does good, he spreads joy, and he’s a classic. Pressure has been put on McDonald’s to retire Ronald McDonald, with the argument being that he encourages children to eat fast food, which is bad for their heath. McDonald’s stayed strong, refuting the accusations with the claim that the decision to eat fast food is an individual choice, and all Ronald McDonald serves to do is spread joy. We’re glad he stuck around, because we can’t imagine a McDonald’s without Ronald.