CAPITAL REGION — Expect a state superhighway system without golden arches.
The last remaining McDonald’s restaurants dotting the New York State Thruway system are set to close Jan. 1. Rest stops in Mohawk and Guilderland are among 11 locations statewide to close, as its contract reaches expiration.
McDonald’s will be replaced by 24-hour Applegreen C-Stores, carrying hot meals, grab-n-go items and Taste NY program products.
“For example, [it’s] like a Stewart’s or a Cumberland Farms,” said Thruway Authority (NYSTA) spokesperson Jonathan Dougherty about the Applegreen C-Stores. “Those kinds of options, but they’ll be hot food options. You’ll no longer be able to get a Big Mac, but you’ll be able to get a piece of pizza or a hot dog or whatever is on the roller.”
McDonald’s hasn’t immediately responded to a request for comment.
McDonald’s first contracted with NYSTA in 1991, records for the state Comptroller’s Office show. The original agreement came a year after NYSTA announced a push to renovate all existing rest stop restaurants along the 569-mile stretch.
Restaurants that had partnered with McDonald’s, such as Original Pizza of Boston and Dippin’ Dots, also will be replaced. Applegreen partners, including Dunkin Donuts and Burger King, are expected to move into select Capital Region locations following their redevelopment.
Guilderland and Mohawk rest stop reconstruction hasn’t been determined.
Such changes are part of a $450 million project from NYSTA and Empire State Thruway Partners to rebuild 23 out of 27 travel plazas across the state. Phase I of the project began in 2021, the same year Applegreen replaced vendors HMS Host and Delaware North.
Dougherty anticipates greater service quality from the switch. Fifty-six percent of 2,600 respondents in a 2018 NYSTA survey were interested in artisan meal offerings from a food hall.
“You’re going to have better options,” Dougherty said. “You’re going to have more modern amenities. To be honest with you, I’ve heard nothing but bad things over the last — I don’t even remember — about McDonald’s.”
Applegreen already serves the Pattersonville travel plaza near Amsterdam on Interstate 90. Along with a market store, that location is eventually expected to include Starbucks and Panera Bread.
Applegreen has more than 600 sites throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Northeastern United States.
“We are proud to have been selected by New York as its long-term partner to reimagine and rebuild the driver experience through the New York State Thruway,” said Applegreen spokesperson Paula Chirhart.
Concessions are projected to make up $5.1 million of NYSTA’s $898 million revenue for 2022. As of May, the outgoing vendor grossed a yearly $830,444 in Guilderland and $1,061,065 in Mohawk out of $16,301,071 statewide.
You can reach Tyler A. McNeil at 518-395-3047 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @TylerAMcNeil