The McDonald's Restaurant in Children's Hospital of Philadelphia will close at midnight Monday after 34 years, but it's not about the food. Indeed, the hospital is adding milkshakes to its food court menu to make up for the loss.
The hospital needed space for a growing outpatient program and the leased McDonald's takes up several thousand square feet on the ground floor, said Chad Hough, the hospital's senior vice president for clinical support services.
The idea of a children's hospital hosting a franchise that has long been a symbol of the obesity epidemic may strike some people as odd, and Hough said internal opinion was mixed.
"I think our job is not only to provide 'healthy foods,' " he said. "It's about variety and giving people choices and giving people information and educating them so they can make good choices."
Hospital spokesman George V. Bochanski Jr. noted that many children are patients for extended periods of time, and dealing with conditions or treatments — nausea from chemotherapy, for example — that affect appetite. "Sometimes the only way you can get these kids to eat are chicken nuggets and things like that," he said.
Hough said the menu at the hospital's McDonald's is the same as at other locations, although the staff is more aggressive about pushing the healthier options.
The restaurant, located near the parking garage, has entrances from both inside and outside the hospital and gets a lot of outside traffic. It is open 24 hours a day and split into two parts, so visitors cannot enter the hospital through the restaurant.
Hough said the most common reaction from staff about the closing was that they liked the discounted combination meals. Some are being added at the hospital's separate food court, along with the milkshakes, he said. Late-night hours have also been extended to 4 a.m.
Officials would not identify the program that will move into the space being vacated by the restaurant.
McDonald's has no plans to open a new restaurant in University City, a spokesman said.