Are All McDonald's Open 24 Hours?

After a long night out, there's nothing quite like spotting those heavenly golden McDonald's arches on your Uber ride home and begging the driver to add them to your list of stops. You even offer them an Oreo McFlurry in exchange for the last-minute request. Nothing can compete with the sweet and salty satisfaction of chowing down on a crispy McDonald's french fry past midnight — except for the equally immense pain of discovering Ronald has closed his 24-hour shop and you'll have to wait until morning for your treat.

Hypothetical situation aside, what do 24 hours really mean in the McUniverse? According to McDonald's 2021 annual report, there were approximately 13,429 stores in the United States, with at least one location in every state capital except for Montpelier, Vermont (via Reader's Digest). So, is every site open 24 hours, and if so, is it the all-inclusive 24/7 we assume it to be, or just between the hours of "6:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.," as one Reddit user noted?

It was the Egg McMuffin that changed everything. According to NBC News, McDonald's pre-McMuffin was primarily only a lunch and dinner affair, with stores closing soon after the evening meal. After its debut, business skyrocketed, and McDonald's operating hours began to change and extend to account for the breakfast addition and surging profits. In 2005, one McDonald's in Garner, North Carolina, transformed into a 24/7 location and reported a nearly $90,000 annual increase in gross sales.

Ronald's McDefinition of 24/7

That said, McDonald's definition of 24 hours should be taken with a grain of salt. For example, if a location says it is open nonstop but the lobby lights are off and the doors are locked, is it still truly, fully operational? Since 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, many restaurants, including McDonald's, have opted to close their dining rooms and strictly operate out of drive-thru windows. While this measure saved many stores, other locations, according to Forbes, had to close their doors indefinitely, such as those inside nearly 800 Walmart stores. Luckily, as of January 2022, nearly 80% of McDonald's dining rooms have reopened (via Business Insider).

Still, why do some locations choose to shut off their grills, dump out their fryers, and close up for the night, even though they are supposedly open for 24 hours? As Business Insider suggests, many restaurants have faced — or are continuing to experience — a significant labor shortage, which forces some restaurants to close early. Further, according to Holly Mann-Salazar, a McDonald's shift manager, explained on Quora that some 24-hour McDonald's locations may just need to briefly shut off their golden arches for systemic operations and to thoroughly clean the store. For example, it can take up to four hours to properly sanitize and reassemble heavily used kitchen equipment, like the McFlurry Machine (via The Wall Street Journal).

How to check if your local McDonald's is open 24 hours

The best way to check if your McDonald's location is generally open 24 hours is through the McDonald's website. There, users can simply type in their zip code and locate which store is open nonstop. However, it is important to remember that this does not mean that specific McDonald's is 100% operational. Depending on whether you want to dine indoors or simply beg your Uber to take you through the drive-thru, it is always a good idea to call your local McDonald's and ask for their operating hours for both dine-in and take-out options.

Another great way to ensure you receive your coveted McNuggets, revolutionary Egg McMuffin, or nostalgic adult Happy Meal is to visit your local store during regular business hours or order online through the app. That way, no matter which location you find during a late-night rendezvous, there will always be a McFlurry waiting for you (that is, if the machine isn't broken).