McDonald's new CosMc's offers a variety of drinks, but no burgers The beverage-first McDonald's spinoff, named for a six-handed extraterrestrial, seems to be a grab at markets currently served by the likes of Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts.

CosMc's lands in Illinois, as McDonald's tests its new coffee-centered concept

CosMc's offers a large variety of drinks — and no hamburgers. The first store testing the new McDonald's concept is opening in Bolingbrook, Ill., near Chicago. McDonald's/Screenshot by NPR hide caption

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McDonald's/Screenshot by NPR

CosMc's offers a large variety of drinks — and no hamburgers. The first store testing the new McDonald's concept is opening in Bolingbrook, Ill., near Chicago.

McDonald's/Screenshot by NPR

If you were alive in the 1980s, and you're nostalgic for one of the least well-known McDonald's mascot characters, the hamburger chain's new restaurant concept is calling your name: CosMc's. The company says it first "test site" is opening in Illinois this month, serving up coffee, frappes and quick bites.

In McDonald's lore, CosMc (it's pronounced like "cosmic") was a six-handed alien known for getting grabby with burgers, which he wanted to take back to his home world after visiting Earth for a "trade mission."

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In its new iteration, the beverage-first McDonald's spinoff seems to be a grab at markets currently served by the likes of Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts. The menu highlights coffee and energy boosters, and it includes at least 15 syrup flavors, from caramel to prickly pear.

"Think of it as an out-of-this-world solution for the 3 p.m. slump," the company said on Wednesday, describing the CosMc's launch in an update to investors.

The store will also sell "McPops," which are essentially donut holes filled with cookie butter, hazelnut or other flavors. The sweets have been attracting fans after seemingly originating at McDonald's operations in Spain. There's just a handful of sandwiches, centering on eggs and sausage, avocados and cheese. There isn't a hamburger in sight.

A sample menu shows food available at CosMc's, ranging from berry-flavored frappes to coffees and breakfast sandwiches. Courtesy McDonald's hide caption

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Courtesy McDonald's

A sample menu shows food available at CosMc's, ranging from berry-flavored frappes to coffees and breakfast sandwiches.

Courtesy McDonald's

The fast-food giant says its core business is thriving, with growth of more than 30% since 2019. It wants to open thousands more stores worldwide. But the company also announced layoffs earlier this year. With its current move, McDonald's says it's looking for chances to experiment — and thus, CosMc's.

"To think ... a little over a year ago, this was just an idea. This week, we're opening the first test site," Chris Kempczinski, the company's president and CEO, told investors on Wednesday.

While the concept seems to have come together quickly, the restaurant company also developed an elaborate backstory for CosMc. In the company's telling, the alien whisked food from McDonald's to a faraway galaxy. There, new innovations emerged — and now, more than 30 years later, CosMc has returned to share "galactic boosts" and other treats with humans.

It's a trick that lets the corporate titan sidestep its own massive legacy and leap into a burgeoning space in the market: While many customers in the 1980s were satisfied with a McDonald's milkshake, CosMc's now wants to cater to people seeking a colorful new category of drinks, from a Turmeric Spice Latte to a Blackberry Mint Green Tea with boba.

And as a Marketplace story notes, the drink-heavy concept promises to be cheaper and simpler to operate than a traditional, full-menu McDonald's restaurant.

The first CosMc's pilot location is in Bolingbrook, Ill., a suburb southwest of Chicago (where the McDonald's global headquarters is located). Ten more stores are set to follow, including openings planned in the Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio metro areas in 2024.

The store near Chicago is opening at 285 N. Weber Rd. — a location formerly occupied by a Boston Market. While some impressionable visitors might look to the heavens wondering where in the galaxy CosMc's might have come from, others won't have to look far to see its true origin: There's a McDonald's right next door, across the parking lot.