This Is Why All McDonald’s Aren’t Open 24/7

Here's why hours vary from location to location.

mcdonalds at night PhilipR/Shutterstock

You’ve probably noticed that some McDonald’s are open all the time, while others shut down in the wee hours of the morning. The fast-food giant made a big push in 2003 to encourage franchise owners to extend their hours, Bloomberg Businessweek reports. The idea was that instead of opening more franchises, McDonald’s would increase its profits by keeping existing franchises open longer. After the effort, more than 90 percent of the 13,700 McDonald’s in the country expanded their hours beyond the typical 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. hours. Don’t miss these 8 McDonald’s secret menu items.

But how come some franchises are open 24/7, while others are not?  First of all, McDonald’s may have to go to the town or city where it’s located to get permission to stay open for 24 hours. That was the case recently in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where a franchise owner recently asked the town’s licensing commission to stay open 24 hours in the Central Square area. (The commission granted the request.)

Then, while some franchises are busy all through the night, others just don’t get enough customers after midnight to make it worthwhile to stay open. “Business hours depend largely on customer traffic,” a former McDonald’s employee wrote on Quora. “It’s the same reason some will open at 5 a.m. and others not until 6… I have worked a night that had exactly ZERO customers between midnight and 5 a.m., and many with fewer than ten.”

A McDonald’s trainer responded that: “There are some McDonald’s that are open 24 hours, however, some stores would not make much of a profit out of it, the amount of money made would not compensate the workers’ pay, the electricity, or resources lost. It’s a matter of profit and practicality.”

The situation gets more complicated from there. Some franchises only keep their drive-through windows open, while others leave the lobby open. And according to one Reddit user, some McDonald’s franchises may say they’re open 24 hours, but they actually close for several hours. Here are 17 things McDonald’s employees won’t tell you.

Finally, other franchises aren’t open 24/7 because they’re not freestanding. So a McDonald’s that’s located in the food court of a mall will likely close when the mall does.

Still, a quick Google search shows that plenty of McDonald’s are open 24/7, should you crave a Big Mac at 3 a.m. Next, find out what the McDonald’s menu looked like the year you were born.

Jen McCaffery
Jen McCaffery is an associate editor for Reader’s Digest. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Prevention, Rhode Island Monthly, and other publications and websites. When she’s not writing or editing, she’s growing veggies or trying to figure out the way home from assorted trails.