There’s a running gag throughout SpongeBob SquarePants involving the unpopular eatery known as the Chum Bucket. Its owner, Plankton, is envious of the Krusty Krab, a burger joint that sells the Krabby Patty—a successful burger that threatens to put him out of business. He comes up with a plan to steal what’s known as the Krabby Patty secret formula so he can make the burgers himself. Although he tries to get the recipe, he fails every time.
Part of what makes Plankton and the Chum Bucket so funny is that it reflects actual restaurants today who hope to capture the same reputation and success as other major food chains. While we doubt there are common attempts to steal actual recipes from other food establishments, there do exist blatant knockoff restaurants that steal others' iconic imagery.
One of the most recognizable and popular food chains around the world today is McDonald’s. Although they have many distinguishing images associated with their brand, the Golden Arches are their most easily recognizable. Even though it’s a direct appropriation for restaurants to take McDonald's arches and repurpose them to their own ends, many places continue to do so.
We’ve gathered photos showing a list of restaurants around the world that didn’t shy away from using McDonald's famous visuals on both their storefront and paper materials housing the food itself. Not only did they try to take advantage of McDonald’s brand appeal, but they also flopped in their execution. The photos alone speak for themselves, showing that even these eateries couldn’t hide their disregard for intellectual property.
Like many franchises, McDonald’s started out as a small company. They eventually grew after many years, and according to IB Times UK, the chain serves 119 countries as of December 2015. The majority of the company’s revenue comes from America, but an entire 1/3 comes from the rest of the world. This kind of fame and popularity ultimately led to MaDonal, which is a clear knockoff of McDonald’s. They took the Golden Arches, the same color scheme, and even the burgers (at least in the photos adorning the storefront). The same source even notes that the owner was once a cook at McDonald’s.
19 Al Donald
Of all the knockoffs on this list, this establishment put a lot into their signage. It’s one of the better-quality displays, showing not only the restaurant’s name but also two split arches with burgers underneath. The detail is extraordinary, despite being a clear rip off of McDonald’s Golden Arches. It doesn’t look like the front fooled customers, though. According to IB Times UK, from perusing the web, the establishment doesn’t look to be open anymore. Even though it has the Golden Arches of McDonald's on display, they’re technically split in half, suggesting it's only a fraction of the worldwide food chain.
18 Angkor Chum-Burger
It may not be a restaurant on a huge property, but even little food carts like this steal from McDonald’s. Even though it’s one of the smaller eateries on this list, it’s one of the most blatant. The size of those Golden Arches is enormous. It’s a well-crafted replica, even if they may have done it without permission. Looking closer, one can even spot holiday lights adorning the edges of the arches. We can’t help but point out the obvious irony here concerning the top menu item listed on their display, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Plankton's burger joint: the Angkor Chum-Burger.
17 “oMc McDnoald’s”
This one is hard to wrap our heads around. The front of this restaurant is simple, yet nearly everything about it screams “McDonald's," except in some bizarre alternate reality. According to Reddit user iiNexility, this knockoff McDonald’s is in China. The first thing that sticks out is the logo, which is of the Golden Arches—but with a twist: there’s a third arch tacked on. It’s odd, but it gets odder. Using the same familiar font, the sign reads “oMc McDnoald’s.” Perhaps it’s alluding to the song “Old MacDonald had a farm,” or maybe that’s the just best explanation we can muster.
Those familiar with the Eddie Murphy movie “Coming to America” from 1988 will recognize this humorous, intentional ripoff. According to ABC7, a deli in Hollywood converted into a McDowell’s for a brief window during Halloween. Considering it’s a joke from a popular movie, this McDowell’s largely succeeds, especially with a long line of people. One of the items they served was a Big Mick sandwich that doesn't have sesame seeds. Then again, they ended up doing this on Halloween instead of April’s Fools, which seems like it would’ve been a better fit, so that makes it a slight flop.
15 Hot Dognald’s
Hot dog! It’s another McDonald’s knock off. This time, though, it’s not Big Macs that are for sale but hot dogs. At least that’s what the name suggests. It’s clear at first glance that this food truck has appropriated the classic red and yellow color scheme McDonald's uses in their displays and promotional materials. They did end up using some creativity, though. Instead of taking the Golden Arches outright, they made an “h” that reflects the “hot” in “hot Dognald’s.” Maybe it’s not the most creative logo, but it’s not the Arches, and that saves it from being the worst kind of copycat.
Ripping off a brand—let alone one of the biggest ones in the world, like McDonald’s—takes a degree of guts. While it’s hard to call it a smart move, it certainly has an element of audacity behind it. Kolonat is one such restaurant that’s willing to risk drawing raised eyebrows over its influence. According to Business Insider, it’s located in Tirana, Albania. The first strike against it is the logo that looks similar to McDonald’s Golden Arches. Secondly, their establishment uses the same red and yellow color scheme. The third strike against it is the menu, which serves burgers and fries.
13 Wichael Alone
Even as far as ripped-off McDonald’s goes, this one's bizarre. To put it simply, there are a lot of strange things about this photo. This restaurant—which exists as a doppelgänger McDonald’s—could almost pass as a McDonald's if there weren't a few areas slightly off. For one, the logo is actually McDonald’s famed Golden Arches, only upside down. Secondly, the restaurant’s name is "Wichael Alone," which exposes the facade to reveal a fake McDonald’s. Last but not least, adding insult to injury, is the creepy clown out front, beckoning customers into the restaurant as a wannabe Ronald McDonald.
It may sound harsh, but this attempt to capture even a glimmer of McDonald’s is sad. All that’s visible is the side of a building. The primary color used is blue, which stands in great contrast to the familiar color scheme McDonald's uses. There is, however, a small square dedicated to the familiar red and yellow people are familiar with. Simply dubbed “McTorta’s,” this establishment may or may not serve food—it’s not exactly clear. They even went to extra lengths to create a unique mascot that wears suspenders, has green hair, and has an appetite on display through the licking of his lips.
11 Simply “Mc”
It may not look like an egregious knockoff, but it only takes two letters to blow a restaurant’s cover. According to Reuters, this hamburger-serving restaurant in Ukraine that bears the word “Mc” on its roof has made McDonald's suspicious. Not only does it bear the first two letters of that world-renowned food chain, but even the font looks replicated. If one looks closely at the signs out front, there’s even a pastry that looks like a McDonald’s item, though it’s hard to tell for sure. Those small details are enough to raise one’s suspicion about the establishment and wonder if they took too many liberties.
10 Mash Donald’s
For proof that McDonald’s can be superior outside of the United States, look no further than this post on locations in Japan. We can’t really speak for Mash Donald’s, though. This knockoff of McDonald's, as per Newsday, resides in Iran where it’s commonplace to copy major food chains. Not only did this location take the familiar red and yellow colors along with the Golden Arches, but it took Ronald McDonald as well. It’s hard to miss the giant photo of McDonald’s mascot waving in the bottom right corner. The only thing they didn’t copy was McDonald’s name, though Mash Donald’s isn’t far off.
9 Kolonat Supreme Sandwich and Fries
Earlier in this post, there was a Kolonat storefront featured. Here, we have the actual paper holders used to house the fries and sandwiches. From afar, it'd be hard to tell these apart from McDonald’s. They’re the same shape, bear the same colors, and even lay out the logo out in a similar fashion. The fries look similar also, even if they aren’t the same recipe. The reflection on the window even reveals a glimpse into a familiar restaurant interior. It’s hard to deny they copied McDonald’s, and it's even harder to accept they’re able to make money off of their stolen brand identity.
8 "Welcome To McDonald’s"
It can be a huge restaurant in the center of a city or a small food cart, but all the same, both have copied McDonald’s for its name brand appeal. Businesses want to make money. They'll even go far enough if it means appropriating the things people recognize most about other major franchises. That’s what happened with this food cart. They managed to even do a professional-looking job of copying McDonald’s and its Golden Arches logo. They even added a friendly “welcome to McDonald’s” greeting on the front of the cart. In the end, though, it’s another McDonald’s ripoff that’s capitalizing on a bigger brand.
7 “I love it!”
The temptation to copy others can be hard to resist. Those who are tempted see only the upshot instead of the potential downside it could involve. It’s easy to copy others, but the end result doesn’t always translate into success. This particular food cart went about ripping off McDonald’s in the laziest way possible: they merely flipped the iconic Golden Arches upside down. They didn’t just stop there, though. When appropriating the logo wasn’t enough, they took its motto—but with a twist. Instead of McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it,” this copycat went with “I love it!” One thing’s for sure: McDonald’s won’t love it.
6 Nike and McDonald's Mashup
Looks can be deceiving. Although passersby may recognize the upside down Golden Arches of McDonald's in the logo of this restaurant, the menu subverts expectations. According to IB Times UK, this eatery doesn’t offer the usual food items one could expect from a McDonald’s; instead, they offer noodles, rice, and more. Customers won’t be caught off guard, though, considering it says “fast food asiatique” in the storefront sign. What’s especially noteworthy is the other major brand it copies from: Nike. That makes this a strange mashup of two worldwide brands, which is one fearless way of attracting trouble. Perhaps the restaurant will reconsider using the Swoosh and the Golden Arches in due time.
5 Ripoff Food Packaging
Even McDonald’s ripoffs like this one manage to carve out a level of success. It’s a complicated matter considering they’re appropriating iconic imagery from McDonald’s, though. According to Star2, this photo shows what some of the food packaging looks like for this restaurant in Ukraine. With one fry left in its container, perhaps the food is comparable to a real McDonald’s. The Golden Arches on these materials even look more contemporary, providing a different take on the famous McDonald's logo. With McDonald’s being such a recognizable brand around the world, it’s only natural restaurants would want to copy their success.
4 Big King
Fast-food establishments start to blend together after a while. It even gets to a point where they serve similar food. Bloomberg speculates that Burger King’s Big King burger is a copy of the Big Mac. If we look at the ingredients, it’s hard to argue otherwise. Two meat patties, a slice of cheese, pickles, and a middle piece of breading make this a wannabe Big Mac. If the Big King had come out years before the Big Mac, then it might not have made it on the list. However, with the Big King arriving way after the Big Mac hit the scene, it’s enough to raise eyebrows.
3 My TADOs
Golden Arches—check. Ice cream cones—check. Fries—check. That’s all it takes to mimic one of the world’s most popular and recognizable food chains. They at least went with a more original name: My TADOs. On the top logo, in between the text, stands the familiar Golden Arches. It’s even etched along each of the glass windows stretching along its storefront. It’s a little misleading to customers, who might think the store has some affiliation with McDonald's. When a store like this serves similar food and even uses the brand’s popular imagery, it can be confusing to the general public.
The photo may be a little dark, but the keen eyes will spot the restaurant name and logo towards the top left corner. Barely lit is the word “McFoxy” over the storefront. The lights look dimmer on the restaurant’s sign, perhaps, because they aren’t too anxious to show off the uncanny resemblance they share with a major franchise. There are even many strings of lights that hang over the glass windows. Maybe those are for concealing the familiar interior of this restaurant. Even those can’t hide the signs advertising burgers inside, though, which suggests there's more of a McDonald's influence than just the exterior sign.
1 Bright Red Sign
There isn’t much one can glean from this photo alone, but it’s clear the restaurant takes some inspiration from McDonald's. It’s red, white and bright—this knockoff McDonald’s has a sign that’s enough to draw customers in. One wonders how long the sign's going to stay lit, though, considering the trademark infringement. The name of this restaurant isn’t exactly clear, but one thing's for sure: the McDonald’s Golden Arches are smack dab in the center of the text. At least they decided to make the arches white instead of yellow, so the knockoff isn’t a carbon copy.