At Sydney International Airport, you’ll find a McDonald’s In The Sky. This is no joke — under the airy structure of Terminal 1 lies one of the newest locations of the most known fast food restaurant in the world. This space, designed by architecture and branding firm Landini Associates, serves as a symbol for the company as a whole: a shining example of its mechanical efficiency and an ultramodern setting for the theatrical display of its inner workings. Normally, the arches are so big that you can’t miss them no matter where you are. Like those locations, this one is also impossible to miss.
When you’re in an airport terminal looking for something to eat before a flight, you don’t always have the best selections available to you, making the choice more difficult than it would normally be out on the street. With McDonalds in the Sky, the laminated yellow glass acts as a beacon for all to see. Similar to the lights on a runway, the bright color of the box is powerful and captures the eye. And since it’s so specific to one company, it also evokes a sentiment of familiarity for the brand, even before the arches themselves are seen camouflaged on the glass.
Those who don’t like the brand probably won’t appreciate that glowing aesthetic, but in an airport terminal full of signs and symbols, it only makes sense that McDonald’s in the Sky would try to outshine them all. It draws attention to itself and stirs brand recognition by design, and not by a logo.
Beyond the glass, you’ll see an example of efficiency that, even if you aren’t eating there, is fascinating by itself. Meals are prepared in this location as in any other location, but rather than have an employee walk a few feet to bring the meal to the register, a conveyor belt brings each meal down in an orchestrated fashion.
One by one, like watching planes take off and land, purposely timed so as to not mix up the order, each meal comes down. The conveyor belt takes each meal up the to ceiling of the preparation area within the yellow box and loops them around before descending to the exposed service area on the floor, where staff members collect the meals to hand them over to customers. If the staff misses a meal in the event of a sudden rush at the registers, the conveyor belt simply pulls the meal back up to the preparation area, where it loops around to come down seconds later for another try.
Together, the stark color of the restaurant and the efficiency of the process are part of the theater that is McDonald’s In The Sky. In most of locations for the brand, you can see meals being made, but in this location they really feel on display. To observe the staff scurrying on both levels, with the conveyor belt acting as the link between the two, is undeniably impressive — even for someone who isn’t necessarily “lovin’ it.”