What Happens in McDonald's When the Sun Goes Down

We spent a Friday night in a London McDonald's, people watching and chatting to the security guards.
man in mcdonald's

McDonald's is a different place after dusk.

Something about the smell of processed beef clearly targets whatever part of the brain it is that makes people want to hit each other hard in the face, to the degree that "McDonald's fight video" has basically become its own YouTube subcategory. There are even videos like "5 McDonald's Fights 2018 Must see" that you can bookmark now and watch later, if you're the sort of person who enjoys watching drunk people bleeding in fast-food chains.


Related: I recently spent a Friday evening at a McDonald's in Brixton, with photographer Jake Lewis, to see what happens after the day's last Happy Meal is sold.

mcdonald's brixton

It was already busy by the time we got there, at 9PM, with a few bouncers patrolling the queue.

There can't be many other places than the UK where burger restaurants need to hire bouncers to deal with customers. We're actually solidly mid-table in the Global Drinking League, but – and I don't mean to alarm you – absolute top for binge-drinking.

While that's something we can of course all be very proud of, it does mean chains that stay open past last orders – McDonald's and KFC, for example – sometimes have to get security in to stop pissed up customers from hassling staff or other customers.

brixton mcdonald's

The first guard I spoke to had been working at the Brixton branch for a year. I asked about the worst thing he'd seen during that time. "So you want to start with that, huh?" he replied, clearly not keen to start with that. Before I could follow up, he was off, checking that no one had smuggled in a Buckfast to complement their Big Mac.

man holding bottle of wine

Stepping outside, I met someone who'd been caught doing almost exactly that. Alex had walked in with a bottle of something in his hand and tried to be extra friendly to the security guard, hoping he'd just be waved through like Tom DeLonge at a UFO conference. It hadn't worked.

girl outside mcdonald's

A couple of hours in, and with nothing much to report, a small team of new security guards arrived for the late shift. One, who was on his second ever shift there, told us of the troubles of being a bouncer in Britain.


"They should change the rules," he said. "I'd rather be a security guard in America. They have weapons and can fight back." He sometimes felt scared, he said, not having special training to defend himself against angry people with a belly full of Stella.

angry man mcdonald's

Before long, one of those angry people made himself known, shouting at security: "DO YOUR JOB PROPERLY!"

The guards did their job properly and escorted the man outside. He was back soon enough, but only to grab a PC game he'd left behind.

brixton mcdonald's

Just missing the chaos, an off-duty McDonald's bouncer popped in to say hello to his colleagues. We spoke for about half an hour and he told me his concerns about the rising number of child dealers hanging around in the store. He'd recently had his hand broken by a punching punter, and it was still swollen from the damage.

"Being security here is tough," he said. "There's no respect. They see you as nothing."

While we got ready to go, one final guy got kicked out for having half a can of Strongbow on him. Luckily, this didn't end in a punch-up: after security calmly explained the rules – i.e. "no alcohol in here please" – he replied, "Well, you're the boss."

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mcdonald's brixton
mcdonald's brixton
mcdonald's brixton
woman stroking bouncer face
two girls selfie