Fast food restaurants are great because of the tasty, salty food and the easy convenience they bring to our lives. However, these restaurants would be a lot less marketable without the help of endearing, cartoonish mascots to help sell the brand.
They don’t always have the healthiest options, but every now and then, it’s hard to resist a burger from Mcdonald’s, a taco from Taco Bell, or a Frosty from Wendy’s.
You might not consciously think about these mascots when you get hungry, but things like mascots and other forms of advertising and branding help s these restaurants stand out among the rest — especially for kids.
Although controversial and sometimes seen as a bit silly, these mascots also have historical aspects.
In this article, I’ll discuss the best fast food mascots for popular restaurants across the country.
Ronald McDonald is the very recognizable and popular mascot for one of the most famous fast food restaurants in the world — McDonald’s. He’s a red-haired, yellow-footed clown who wears red and white stripes.
He first made his debut in 1963 in a McDonald’s commercial and has been the face of the company ever since.
He’s appeared in countless commercials, has his own Twitter account, and is even the star of McDonald’s charity events via Ronald McDonald House.
Ronald is supposed to represent everything McDonald’s stands for — happiness, fun, and friendliness.
He also lives in a fictional world called “McDonaldland,” featuring other Mcdonald’s characters.
Colonel Sanders KFC
One of the most popular and recognizable fast food mascots is KFC’s Colonel Sanders.
Not only is this a mascot and symbol for the brand, it directly represents the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken — Colonel Harland David Sanders.
Sanders was an American Businessman who got a head start in cooking after an unfortunate event — his father’s death.
Sanders had to take care of his siblings at an early age, but he learned to love food and the art of making it.
Later in life, he experimented with pressure cookers, which is still how KFC cooks its chicken today.
Jack In The Box
Jack Box is the mascot for the restaurant chain Jack In The Box. Jack is a human-like character with a giant head that sports the restaurant’s logo.
He has two functioning eyes, a cone for a nose, and a red smiley face, making the figure look a bit clownish, in my opinion — especially with the addition of the yellow clown hat.
Jack In The Box was founded by a man named Robert Peterson, and the current CEO is Darrin Harris. However, comically, Jack Box acts as the founder and CEO in Jack In The Box’s commercials.
Their former advertising consisted of a real clown.
Still, when they were on the verge of bankruptcy in the 90s, they relied on this new version of the clown figure — a “businessman” — to establish a more serious (yet still lighthearted) nature to the brand. And it worked!
Arby’s Oven Mitt
Arby’s is a fast food restaurant that focuses on sandwiches, particularly roast beef sandwiches.
Their mascot is an oven mitt with thick eyebrows and big blue eyes, which Arby’s introduced in 2003.
He was the “face” of the brand and was used in most of their advertising at the time.
This oven mitt had the role of explaining how Arby’s beef was made, i.e., how it is roasted instead of grilled or fried.
I think it was a good idea, but perhaps it was too similar to Hamburger Helper’s mitt mascot “Lefty.”
They shelved this mascot in 2005, but who knows, it can always come back!
Chuck E. Cheese
Chuck E. Cheese is the mascot for a restaurant chain that goes by the same name.
The mascot is an anthropomorphic rat sporting a red bow tie and is supposed to appeal to children.
The character was created by Nolan Bushnell, who is also the founder of Atari. The first restaurant opened in 1977 and was called “Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theater,” but it is now simply called Chuck E. Cheese.
The mascot has changed a few times over the years, but the current version was introduced in 1992. The rat has been known to sing and dance in their commercials and Pizza Time Theater shows.
While the character is supposed to be fun and lovable, I do find him a bit creepy — especially because he’s a rat. But I guess kids find him entertaining!
The Chick-fil-A cows are the unofficial mascots for the restaurant chain Chick-fil-A.
They are multiple real-life, trained cows named Freedom, Molly, Freckles, and Cat.
Chick-fil-A markets the cows as “speaking” because they don’t want to be eaten. Thus, people should eat more chicken instead of beef.
It’s a funny marketing campaign that catches your attention when you see it on a billboard or in a commercial.
Chick-fil-A sometimes also has humans dress up in cow costumes with shirts that say “Eat Mor Chikin’,” touching upon the same concept.
Grimace from McDonald’s
While there are several characters in the aforementioned McDonaldland world, I’ll include two more notable ones outside of Ronald.
The first is Grimace, a large, purple, amorphous creature. He was originally introduced as an “Evil Grimace,” with two sets of arms, who was trying to steal milkshakes from kids.
However, he was quickly turned into a lovable character who just really loved milkshakes, which makes more sense to me marketing-wise.
Why would kids want to go somewhere where a purple monster might steal their delicious milkshake?
The Hamburglar from McDonald’s
The Hamburglar is another of McDonald’s most famous characters. He first appeared in 1971 and has undergone several redesigns over the years.
The most recent version of the Hamburglar was introduced in 2002 and looks very different from its predecessors.
Instead of a fully red costume, he now just wears a red-and-black striped shirt and hat.
Like Grimace, who was changed from naughty to nice, the Hamburglar has also given up his life of crime and is now a family man.
I think this redesign was necessary to keep the character relevant, as the old version was beginning to look a bit dated.
The Burger King King
The Burger King is the mascot for the restaurant chain of the same name. He first appeared in 1955 and has gone through several redesigns since then.
The Burger King is supposed to be a medieval king holding their signature item, a Whopper. The company originally used the King in print campaigns as a simple cartoon.
The most recent version is a “realistic” 3D model introduced in 2014. This version is a little creepy to me, as he looks like he’s about to eat you and always has two thumbs up, which is questionable.
But again, sometimes creepy and odd is what restaurants need to make people pay attention. It’s also fitting that he’s wearing a paper crown, similar to the ones kids can get in-store.
Little Caesar is the mascot for the Little Caesars pizza chain. He is based on the historical Roman ruler Julius Caesar.
Like many of these other mascots, Little Caesar has had seven redesigns over the years since the company started in 1959.
He sports a toga and a laurel wreath, both traditional Roman garments and symbols.
Little Caesar is supposed to represent the company’s quality and Italian heritage. I think he’s a pretty straightforward and effective mascot that does his job well.
The Noid Domino’s Pizza
The Noid is the mascot for Domino’s pizza. He first appeared in the 1980s and was created to personify the company’s then-new “30-minutes or less” delivery guarantee.
Domino’s revived the mascot in 2021.
The Noid is a red creature with pointy ears who wears a red and white rabbit suit with an “N” on the chest.
He’s supposed to be annoying and pesky, which I think is an accurate portrayal of how most people feel about having to wait for their food from Domino’s (or anywhere).
While the Noid is certainly different from most other mascots on this list, I think he’s a perfect match for Domino’s Pizza.
The Domino’s company has always been known for its quirky advertising, so Noid fits right in.
Wendy at Wendy’s is a well-known symbol for the brand, but she’s not technically just a mascot.
Wendy is based on the founder of Wendy’s, Dave Thomas, who first established the restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. Dave Thomas named the fast food restaurant after his daughter, Wendy.
Wendy appeared in many commercials over the years, but she’s not as “in your face” as some of the other fast food mascots on this list.
I think this is because Wendy’s doesn’t want to come across as too childish or silly.
Wendy represents down-to-earth family values and wants to emphasize fresh food instead of quirks and gimmicks; I can respect that.
Taco Bell Chihuahua
I’m not going to lie; the Taco Bell chihuahua is one of the best fast food mascots, if not the best, in my opinion.
He first appeared in 1997 and was created to appeal to the millennial demographic. The chihuahua, named Gidget, is adorable but marketed as sassy.
However, I can understand the controversy behind the character as well. Some Latin Americans did not like the cultural stereotypes that the chihuahua portrayed.
Regardless of the campaign itself, I respect Gidget. She went on to feature in GEICO commercials as well as Legally Blond 2, so she’s a true star in my book.
Jollibee is a big, anthropomorphic, red and yellow bee with white-gloved hands and is the mascot for the Filipino fast food chain of the same name.
Even with his massive eyes, something is endearing and adorable about this bee that doesn’t look as creepy to me as some of the other mascots.
Jollibee is supposed to represent the hardworking nature of Filipinos as well as their happy disposition.
I think he’s a great reflection of the brand and does an excellent job of appealing to their target market.