McDonald’s vs. Starbucks: Which one is more popular?

For the workaholic generation of today where the average working class requires more than one job to earn a decent living, coffee has become one of the most popular energy boosters. The huge demand now has two of the biggest names in the coffee business, Starbucks and McDonald’s, doing the most to win the modern consumer.

For most coffee lovers like myself, a Starbucks drive-through is part of our daily routine. However, I’ve also realized that I also frequent McDonald’s for a quick lunch grab and end up carrying a coffee. McCafe is fast growing on me. I have to admit that both companies have great coffee and a huge customer base, which means they are doing something right. I decided to dig deeper into the market to learn more about each as competition between the two brands is at an all-time high. Read on to find out how they differ and the more popular one between the two.

What are the differences between McDonald’s Vs. Starbucks?





Bright white lighting complements the bold, colorful aesthetics in the space. The sitting design is ideal for small groups.


The warm lighting is calmer and inviting. Lots of art and earthy tones. The design encourages customer interaction with both the space and one another.


Over 38,000 stores in over 100 countries

Over 33,800 outlets in over 80 countries


Huge variety of food items compared to drinks.

Numerous specialty drinks and variations and not many food options

Price range

Prices are quite affordable

Prices are higher

Beverage sizes

Sizes range between 16 ounces and 30 ounces

Sizes range between 12 ounces and 31 ounces

Environmental consciousness

Packaging is recyclable and eco-friendly designs but their meat sourcing for beef has negative impacts on the climate.

Adapted re-usable packaging items and use of dishwashers to minimize water consumption. Coffee is ethically sourced.

McDonald’s Vs. Starbucks: How do they compare?



I like that Starbucks spaces are designed to promote interaction and make every customer feel at home. The store ambiance features cool earthy tones, warm lighting, and artwork on the walls which makes the customer feel very much at home.

For McDonald’s, their restaurant style is evolving. The fast-food chain is slowly ditching the bright and bold aesthetic for a neutral industrial feel in most of the stores with bold elements only remaining on the logo. The new furniture design is also more accommodating with room for interaction. It still feels like a restaurant because the investment in homeliness is lacking.

In this category, I’ll give Starbucks the medal for richer experiences and a more inviting ambiance within their spaces.


Starbucks is growing in the international market with over 33,800 locations in more than 80 countries. All the locations are owned by the company with only licensed operators in select stores within learning and medical institutions.

With operations in over 119 countries, McDonald’s is the fast-food market leader in the world with approximately 39,000 locations owned and managed independently through franchises.

McDonald’s takes the lead in growth and expansion so it wins in this category.


Starbucks is famous for its numerous options of quality coffee beverages and other drinks with creative variations and flavors for most menu items. The food options though are limited to snacks, pastries, and a few healthy boxes. Starbucks customers also enjoy unique seasonal menu items, especially during the holidays. The culture of leaving funny notes on orders and putting names on the cups is impressive.

McDonald’s on the other hand is known for a wide variety of meaty fast foods, mostly burgers, and a reasonable range of affordable beverages.

It’s a tie in this category because while Starbucks offers more drinks, McDonald’s offers more food items.

Price Range

McDonald’s offers more affordable items across the board compared to Starbucks. That said, the quality of McCafe is not as reliable as that of Starbucks coffee. The McDonald’s roast is much lighter while Starbucks is true to the dark roast and has strong caffeine levels.

McDonald’s wins in this category since its menu items are cheaper compared to Starbucks’ prices.

Beverage Sizes

Starbucks has standard sizes that drinks are served in, including a Tall (12 ounces) a Grande (16 ounces), a Venti (24 ounces), and A Trenta (31 ounces). They also serve the kid-friendly sizes in a short cup of 8 ounces. There are also packaged sizes retailed in bottles.

McDonald’s beverages are served in three different cup sizes. The smallest cup size is 16 ounces, followed by the 21-ounce cup size. You can also order a drink in a large cup of 30 ounces.

Starbucks wins in this category because it offers larger and more sizes compared to McDonald’s.

Environmental Consciousness

Starbucks has a long-standing commitment to climate action through various partnerships including Conservation International which enabled the company to create ethical sourcing guidelines for their coffee and tea. The company has gone ahead to adopt various measures including the design of eco-friendly stores and plants that are LEED Certified, harvesting of solar power, the introduction of paper cups and ethical napkins in stores, the establishment of a waste reduction program, and minimal water usage. The coffee giant has also introduced more plant-based ingredients that lower the climate impact on the food supply chain.

McDonald’s has accelerated efforts in waste management and eco-friendly packaging to help preserve nature. The company has also reportedly minimized water usage by 30% in all its stores. The issue of meat sourcing for the brand has been criticized as a huge climate change catalyst, contributing to a third of McDonald’s carbon footprint. The company has promised to source beef sustainably and support cattle-raising communities that supply for the brand to improve varieties and clean the beef supply chain, which is believed to be the most harmful food for the environment.

While both companies have a sustainability agenda, Starbucks has by far shown more transparency in implementing most of its commitments and takes the lead in the environmental consciousness.

McDonald’s vs. Starbucks: A Comparison Overview

McDonald’s Overview

McDonald’s vs. Starbucks

The fast-food company began as a burger shack in 1948 by two brothers, Dick and Mac McDonald. The first restaurant was established in San Bernardino, California. The two brothers wanted an eye-catching brand for the business and hence the red and white colors. Dick McDonald felt the design required more attention to which he added the giant arches on the roof of the restaurant in 1953. They were later painted yellow for more attention and eventually incorporated into the logo.

By 1955, the McDonald brothers had opened the business to franchise with Ray Kroc becoming the first agent. Ray’s vision was to expand the brand and establish 1,000 locations in the US. It not only expanded in the US but to other nations and became one of the most successful food brands in the United States.

Today, McDonald’s operates in 119 countries and has over 39,000 stores worldwide. The company specializes in hamburger fast foods.

Starbucks Overview


Starbucks began its journey as a coffee bean retailer in 1971 in Seattle. The founders were Zev Siegl, Jerry Baldwin, and Gordon Bowker were the founders of this company. The outlet offered freshly roasted coffee beans, tea, and spices until 1987 when Howard Schultz bought it off and opened a coffeehouse, branding it in the classic green that the company carries to date.

It slowly expanded across the US and in 1996, Starbucks ventured into Japan. The coffee house now operates over 33,800 locations in over 80 countries. Starbucks specializes in coffee beverages. Starbucks’ popularity is anchored on the masterful coffee blends and authentic experiences. Many people love the brand for its variety and creativity.

Final Verdict: So, Which is better? McDonald’s Vs Starbucks?

Starbucks is better than McDonald’s in quality, revenue margins, and overall corporate social responsibility. Though the fast-food giant has a bigger footprint and more affordable menu items, Starbucks offers higher quality and healthier products, and a wider range of customizations. McDonald’s also offers healthy coffee options that are more affordable but have a smaller range.

When it comes to beverages, both brands give you value for your money but in my opinion, if you’re looking for high-quality coffee at extra bucks, go to Starbucks.


What is the big difference between McDonald’s and Starbucks?

The biggest difference between the two is the expansion model for each business and specialty offerings. Whereas McDonald’s grows through franchising, Starbucks stores are company owned. On the other hand, Starbucks is famous for coffee drinks while McDonald’s is known for meat-based fast foods.

Is Starbucks coffee stronger than McDonald’s coffee?

Yes, Starbucks coffee has more caffeine.

Which coffee is healthier between Starbucks coffee and McDonald’s coffee?

Unbelievably, McDonald’s has healthier coffee varieties compared to Starbucks given the calorie content on all the menu offerings! That said, both brands can make healthier versions of the various menu items.

Who serves quality coffee between McDonald’s and Starbucks?

Starbucks serves better quality coffee because this is their area of specialization.

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