In the late 1990s, McDonald's was riding a wave of growth that had lasted some four decades. The beloved burger chain was adding new locations every year, and during that time, a new type of McDonald's restaurant started to proliferate—one located inside Walmart centers.
While the partnership between the two American giants yielded strong results for a while, the concept started to lose steam by 2010. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of McDonald's locations in Walmart had gone from 875 to around 630, according to Grocery Dive. And that was only the beginning. (RELATED: 7 New Fast-Food Chicken Sandwiches Everyone's Talking About.)
Just in the past year, some 100 McDonald's units situated inside a Walmart have shut down, according to East Idaho News. The shuttered Walmart restaurants represent nearly half of all closures the fast-food chain had undergone during that time period. With more closures planned through this summer, it is estimated the chain will have about 150 remaining locations inside the big-box stores.
This trend isn't surprising at all. The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically curtailed in-store shopping at Walmart centers nationwide and moved the retail experience online. But even before the pandemic, in-store McDonald's locations have always seen lower traffic compared to stand-alone units, especially those with drive-thru locations, which account for some 95% of McDonald's in America, according to East Idaho News.
And it's hardly a regional issue. In recent weeks, a McDonald's located inside a Walmart in Camden, Del. shut down, as did several such units around Bradenton, Fla., and in Idaho. For more on the most shocking fast-food chain closures, check out 10 Biggest Restaurant Chain Bankruptcies of 2020. And don't forget to sign up for our newsletter to get the latest restaurant news delivered straight to your inbox.