Long ago, somebody realized that perhaps the best way to entice you into a drive-thru was to park a not-at-all-discomforting clown outside. Ever since, the fast-food mascot has been a huge part of our culture.
But not all mascots are equal. That’s why we’ve taken it upon ourselves to rank the most mighty mascots of all time, based on their general appeal, demeanor, and ability to make us hungry. Surprisingly, there’s an alarming number of rats.
Quizno’s Nothing about a pair of rat puppets with pirate hats (!?!) and an acoustic guitar makes me crave a sandwich. These things are reminiscent of when you unearth an old cassette of your kid brother and his weird friend when they figured out how to record themselves making fart jokes with the old boom box in the garage.
McDonald’s I’m not exactly afraid of a giant, vapid, sloth-like, pansexual, seemingly stoned eggplant thing, but not knowing where to kick the thing if it got handsy is disconcerting nonetheless.
16. Mayor McCheese
McDonald’s Rare is the photo in which the mayor of McDonaldland doesn’t look like his soul is crushed because you wouldn’t give him a hug. He should steal a page from Rob Ford’s playbook and switch to, um, cake to lighten the mood.
Jollibee Nothing is more jarring than a smile so bright there’s no way the owner isn’t completely dead on the inside. A smile like that is a giveaway that you’re numb to the world and have no other choice but to pretend to be happy about it.
Chick-fil-A Is it heartless to think these cows should be put down before they try to make something of themselves in the world beyond the slaughterhouse? Unless what they want to make of themselves is a cheeseburger. Because the Cows do a great job at making me hungry. For beef. Which is the opposite of what they’re going for.
Chuck E. Cheese’s Whichever boardroom full of Wharton graduates thought a rat with fingerless gloves and a neon T-shirt was a good idea needs to take a field trip to their treeless suburb’s municipal skate park and brush up on what youth culture is up to these days. The kids are definitely not eating overpriced pizza and playing skee-ball. Or rats. Even “rad” ones.
12. Fry Guys
McDonald's The mention of McDonald’s fries is enough to get me all hot and bothered, but these weird little lemming creatures do nothing in the way of making this legendary fast-food item any more appetizing.
Taco Bell I’d contact the local health department immediately if I saw someone’s rat dog running around my favorite Taco Bell location. However, seeing him inspire millions of Americans to defect from burgers and aim their hunger for freedom doused in sour cream at the revolutionary gift from heaven that is the Gordita makes my heart swell with pride. I’ve come to expect all chihuahuas I encounter in the wild to be harbingers of fast-food liberation, but alas, they’re usually just annoying little turds, and I have to fight back the urge to punt them whenever I see them.
10. The Hamburglar
McDonald's Credit the Hamburglar for at least working the upsell and making you inhale McDonald’s burgers... but only because the Hamburglar’s presence elicits an instinctive response to cram your cache of burgers in your mouth before he gets his greasy hands on them.
9. Oven Mitt
Arby’s It takes pride and conviction to sell roast beef while offering up your own smiling face to get scalded while removing said beef from the oven. I admire the Oven Mitt’s gumption, and I would definitely hire him to help cater my wedding. I imagine he would oblige, since he’s been unemployed for quite some time now.
8. The Noid
Domino’s Domino’s Pizza stopped blaming this endlessly scheming claymation maniac for its bad pizza, instead launching a whole ad campaign about how it used to suck, but now it doesn’t. I admire that kind of honesty, but I’m even more excited by its tireless pursuit of foiling this little bugger’s plans to make your pizza cold and floppy before it arrived at your door. If you’ve ever played the NES game that featured The Noid as the central protagonist, you’d have an intimate knowledge of just how noble a feat this is. I raise a cheesy piece of cardboard and salute you, Domino’s: you defeated The Noid!
Jack in the Box With his natty attire and affable disposition, I’d be excited about buying anything from Amway products to oceanfront property in Arkansas if Jack was the man pitching it. Calm and charming, he’s like the nameless guy in your office who cracks a tasteful joke in the break room once a week, then vanishes immediately. He makes you feel pretty okay about eating a 1,200-calorie gutbomb at 4am, too.
6. Little Caesar
Little Caesars It’s a scientific fact that Americans love pizza. Guess what this diminutive titan of industry is packin’. Pizza. Lots and lots of pizza. Sweet, sweet pies that are ready to roll out of the heating box and into your mouth as soon as you’d like. Little Caesars is a an anomaly in that it rebranded by giving up pretense -- it simply slashed prices, promised to give you exactly what you want when you want it, and kept that lovable little guy with the toga as dumb and happy as he’s been since day one. “Pizza! Pizza!” Yeah man. $10.
5. Ronald McDonald
McDonald's Ronald is without a doubt the most polemic fast-food mascot. He’s friendly and instantly recognizable, but he’s also a clown. Most normal people are terrified by clowns regardless of nostalgia, so whether he reminds you of Saturday mornings spent watching cartoons and eating Happy Meals or the scariest moments or Stephen King’s It is all on you.
4. The King
Burger King At the height of his absurdist ad campaign, The King was a lot like a friendly, burger-wielding version of the lingering phantasm in the movie It Follows. Your dog starts barking at a mysterious visage in the woods, and it would inevitably be The King with a silver platter of whatever weird new creation Burger King came up with that week. As unsettling as it may be to see a guy who looks like the fourth musketeer holding a sack of Rodeo Cheeseburgers or YUMBOs in your back yard, it still makes you crave whatever’s in that sack.
3. Long John Silver
Long John Silver's While the stern, grandfatherly presence of the Gorton’s fisherman implies years of toil and trouble for which he’ll tell you all about over a crackling fire with microwaved cod planks, Long John is the kind of rogue you’d enjoy hours of tomfoolery with, downing shots of Caribbean rum and popcorn shrimp by the mouthful. Though his empire was sacked by Yum! Brands in 2002, they’ve since cut the wayward seafarer loose with most of his A&W alliances intact, which means there are plenty of root beer floats and hush puppies in his crusty crew’s future. Ahoy!
Wendy's Wendy doesn’t cut corners in her patty slinging, which certainly has something to do with her Ohio-born establishment being neck-and-neck with Burger King for the coveted seat behind McDonald’s in the cheeseburger chain of command. I wouldn’t hesitate in the least bit to hire Wendy as my family’s babysitter, personal chef, and maybe even an au pair -- she certainly looks like the kind of overachiever who studied abroad and spent a year building orphanages in Haiti back in undergrad.
1. Colonel Sanders
KFC Legendary. No fast-food spokesperson is as capable of invoking the gastronomic glory of the foodstuff they’re pimping as the Colonel. The mere sight of a distant stranger in a white linen suit makes me crave the juicy runoff of his legendary three-piece meal. It’s wrong of me to assume every friendly old man with a cane and a Southern drawl is packing a bucket of Original Recipe, but the ubiquity of the Colonel amidst these past few decades of fast-food turmoil has taught me to trust no one else.