Ball Pits and Other Things We Miss at Fast-Food Restaurants

McDonald Bench

McDonald Bench by Simon Burchell (CC BY-SA)

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Ronald McDonald Teenie Beanie Baby
Ronald McDonald Teenie Beanie Baby by slgckgc (CC BY)

Fast Food Nostalgia

Fast food restaurants are convenient, (usually) affordable, and are a go-to place to grab a meal for people from all walks of life. The Burger Kings, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and Taco Bells of today are more straightforward in their designs without much to characterize each restaurant aside from their individual menus and the colors of their brand. Fast food joints have evolved over the years and the good old days of ball pits, outdoor playgrounds, and salad bars at our beloved restaurants are (mostly) long gone. Fortunately, they remain fondly in our hearts and memories.

Related: Fast Food Restaurants Then and Now

Ball Pit
Ball Pit by Larry D. Moore (CC BY-SA)

Ball Pits

Play places in fast food restaurants are becoming more and more obsolete, but ball pits in those areas are long gone and fondly remembered. Who didn’t love yelling, “Cannonball!” and hurling themself beneath hundreds of bright colored balls that smelled like French fries and sweat? Albeit loads of fun, ball pits were actually just giant germ pools that couldn’t possibly be cleaned effectively, causing their ultimate demise.

Related: What’s the Most Popular Fast Food in Your State?

Outdoor Playground
Outdoor Playground by tengrrl (CC BY-SA)

Outdoor Playgrounds

We all remember play places and some restaurants still have them, but some of the best spaces to play at fast food restaurants were the outdoor playgrounds. McDonald’s had a particularly imaginative outdoor playground with fun characters, including a police officer hamburger tower for kids to climb in. 

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McDonald Bench
McDonald Bench by Simon Burchell (CC BY-SA)

Ronald McDonald Benches and Food-Shaped Chairs

McDonald’s restaurants everywhere used to have benches with a Ronald McDonald statue sitting on them, allowing kids to sit next to their favorite clown with his arm around them and snap a picture on their disposable camera. The restaurant also featured hamburger stools and French fry seats for some more creative seating options throughout the dining room. 

Related: The Biggest Fast-Food Flops of All Time

Salad Bar
Wikimedia Commons

Pizza Hut’s Salad Bar

While Pizza Hut still offers salad options on their menu, it no longer allows patrons the opportunity to build their own plate of leafy greens at the salad bar. Unfortunately, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, buffets all over are becoming more taboo.

Related: These Buffets Have Closed Locations Permanently 

Birdie the Early Bird
Birdie the Early Bird by revjdevans (CC BY-NC)

McDonald’s Characters

Although he’s no longer a staple across McDonald’s restaurants, Ronald McDonald is pretty much a household name. But only those truly in touch with their nostalgic sides remember the clown’s crew: Ronald’s dog Sundae, the purple Grimace, the pint-sized Hamburglar, Birdie the Early Bird who promoted breakfast items, Captain Crook, and plenty of others. Once heavily affiliated with the Golden Arches, the characters were painted on windows inside the dining area, they adorned seating areas in play places, and from 1998 until 2003, they were even featured in “The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald,” a miniseries which included six 40-minute episodes produced and immediately released on VHS and offered exclusively in participating restaurants.

Related: 23 Surprising Things You Didn't Know About McDonald's

McDonald's Video Game
McDonald's Video Game by osde8info (CC BY-SA)

Video Game Consoles in Play Areas

As if plastic and netted tunnels, slides, and ball pits in play areas weren’t fun enough, some fast food restaurants used to feature video game consoles too. These were particularly useful for those days when the playscapes were teeming with too many kids and there wasn’t an empty shoe cubby in sight.

Buzz Glass
Pizza Hut

Hut-Shaped Roofs at Pizza Hut and Cantina-Shaped Taco Bell Buildings

While newer Pizza Hut restaurants feature a more sleek and modern design, the pizza place used to have a red, hut-shaped roof across restaurant locations, giving it a unique, easy to distinguish look. Pizza Hut wasn’t the only restaurant that followed particular design elements to the building itself. Taco Bell used to have cantina-shaped restaurant buildings to stand apart from competitors. 

Related: Historic Fast-Food Restaurants Across America

Niagara Falls, Ontario,  Canada - August 11, 2019: A  Burger King restaurant; Burger King (BK) is an American global chain of hamburger fast food restaurants.

Burger King Visors

The Home of the Whopper highlighted one standout uniform element in the 80’s: a super-stylish red visor. While we might not necessarily miss the visors (especially since they were for employees), seeing them certainly brings all of the warm, nostalgic feelings back. 

Related: Fast Food Deals to Feed the Whole Family

McDonald's Birthday
McDonald's Birthday by Rona Proudfoot (CC BY-SA)

Birthday Parties at McDonald’s

Ah, the good old days of being able to rent out the play place and host a birthday party. Parties at McDonald’s included cake, characters, and decorations and no shortage of fun for party goers. 

Red Cups

Pizza Hut’s Red Cups

Sometimes it’s the smallest details that stand out the most and stick with us forever. Take Pizza Hut’s red plastic cups, for example. They were about as simple as could be: red plastic, and in some cases, with a white Pizza Hut logo on the cup. Despite their simplicity, they are a fond memory for pizza lovers everywhere.

Related: Best Cheap Delivery Pizza

Ronald McDonald Teenie Beanie Baby
Ronald McDonald Teenie Beanie Baby by slgckgc (CC BY)

Teenie Beanie Babies in Happy Meals

Burger King, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, and plenty of other fast food chains still offer toys in kids’ meals, but they’re just simply not as good as they used to be. From Disney video masterpiece figurines and Happy Meal transforming toys to Tiny Toons flip cars, McDonald’s used to have some seriously sought after prizes in their kids’ meals. One of the most popular that became a “collect them all” obsession for many were the Teenie Beanie Babies.

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