When their location was set to close, employees from a Marseilles, France McDonald's occupied it over as a hub to benefit their community.

By Mike Pomranz
June 30, 2021
Credit: BERTRAND LANGLOIS / Contributor/Getty Images

Around the world, McDonald's Golden Arches are inescapable: a symbol of burgers and fries served quickly at a reasonable price. But in France, workers at one McDonald's location co-opted many of the chain's iconography (those arches, the corresponding lettering, the building's distinct design) and complimented it with their own flourishes -- a pastel paint job, a new name, billboard-size articles posted in the windows -- to create a different sort of beacon: one that calls those in need to what is now a food bank.

Last week, The Washington Post documented this McDonald's and its unlikely transformation in a striking photo essay: 'This is a food bank now': Workers seized a McDonald's in France.

The "former" McDonald's in question is located in Marseille's 14th district. When the restaurant was set to shutter in 2019, the people who worked there saw an opportunity to use the easily-identifiable space to address the needs of their community, so they reportedly took the keys and began illegally occupying the building for use as a food bank.

They rearranged the letters forming the "McDonald's" sign to a new name: "l'apres M" -- which, in true French fashion, translates to "the after M." And though the restaurant is now stocked with food, even encroaching into the former dining area, the kitchen equipment itself is apparently not being used.

"Rather than condemning the occupiers, city officials have embraced the volunteers as role models," journalist Sandra Mehl writes. "In a surprised move this month, the left-wing leadership of Marseille announced its intent to buy the building, effectively legalizing the food bank and preventing its closure by police."

Marseille's Deputy Mayor for the Economy Laurent Lhardit even clarified that they city isn't trying to "push people to pursue illegal occupations," according to The Post, but to encourage others to start their own programs to help those in need. "What's extremely important for us about this project is that those are people who were born in the area," he was quoted as saying.

But now that L'apres M is going legit, the future suddenly sounds a bit less clear: Ideas include turning it back into a restaurant but serving healthy, low-cost meals or into a local job-training center. But at the very least, its days as a McDonald's are over.