Today marks the last day that people can roll into a San Francisco McDonald's and purchase a Happy Meal that comes with a toy for their screaming kids. As noted here, in November 2010, the San Francisco board of supervisors voted to forbid restaurants from offering a free toy with meals that contain more than set levels of calories, sugar and fat. The Chicago Tribune reported last year that the ordinance, which takes effect tomorrow, Dec. 1, 2011, provides that restaurants may only include a toy with a meal if the food and drink combined contain fewer than 600 calories, and if less than 35 percent of the calories come from fat.
Since coming in under 600 calories obviously isn't realistic for any Happy Meal -- even the "healthier" Happy Meals with apples and such -- the ordinance means that today marks the end of the "meal and a toy" combo that has long been a staple at McDonald's in San Francisco and elsewhere. According to SF Weekly, however, the ordinance may have unintended consequences, as McDonald's has devised a counterpunch that may lead to the company making more money and possibly selling even more Happy Meals.
Historically (and until the end of the day today), parents who wanted to provide a Happy Meal toy to their children without purchasing the food could simply pay McDonald's $2.18 for the toy only. Beginning tomorrow when the new ordinance goes into effect, however, McDonald's has decided that the only way to get a toy is to make a 10-cent charitable donation to the Ronald McDonald House charities. And in order to have the privilege of making this small donation to get the toy, parents must ... wait for it ... buy the Happy Meal! As SF Weekly sums it up, "in their desire to keep McDonald's from selling grease and fat to kids with the lure of a toy [San Francisco has] now actually incentivized the purchase of that grease and fat. ..."
Your move, San Francisco!!!