The BTS Meal at McDonald's

Hey, did you hear? BTS just dropped a meal.

I remember when meals were something that were cooked, prepared, or maybe in rare circumstances “released.” But dropped? That’s new.

“Yo, Grandma just dropped a meal. Bless up 🙏”

“Isn’t that just the Chicken McNuggets meal?” No, it’s the BTS Meal. There’s a difference. For one, it has exclusive sauces (which I didn’t even get in my order 😩). For two…. actually, I think that’s it. No wait, the paper bag and cup are purple. The greasy trash that you would normally throw out? That part’s cool now.

So what is a “BTS Meal”? Contrary to what you might assume, it’s not a political thing (that would be the “BDS meal,” dropping next month), it’s a reference to the Korean boy band BTS. I assume that their namesake has claimed the Chicken McNuggets meal because that’s their favorite pick when they’re eating McDonald’s at the airport. Also, because Travis Scott already claimed the Quarter Pounder with Medium French Fries and Barbecue Sauce combo as his own.

“It’s lit!”

You see what’s happening, right? McDonald’s is engaging in an act of information architecture.

In the case of information architecture, we could say that […] we have information as the raw material, embedded in objects delimited by spaces intentionally designed in order to promote user experiences as the core expertise practiced and researched within the field […]

Lacerda F., Lima-Marques M. (2014) Information Architecture as a Discipline—A Methodological Approach. In: Resmini A. (eds) Reframing Information Architecture. Human–Computer Interaction Series. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-06492-5_1

Let’s examine both the 10 Piece Chicken McNugget Meal and the BTS Meal as objects of information and break out their components.

If we conceptualize a McDonald’s “meal” as consisting of the four parts Drink, Main, Side, and Sauce, we can see that the regular 10 Piece McNuggets meal and the BTS Meal are more alike than not. They both feature 10 McNuggets and french fries – the core of the meal, in my sauce-adverse opinion – and differ only when it comes to the exclusive Cajun and Sweet Chili sauces that you can only get with the BTS Meal.

What I find interesting is that there is a degree of “participatory experience” in the BTS Meal that shows up in the optional components and attributes. The true, BTS-hand-selected, “Director’s Cut” version of the BTS Meal calls for a Coca-Cola as your drink and limits your fries intake to a reasonable Medium. However, it’s technically possible to order a BTS Meal and substitute your drink for something other than Coke, or to perhaps indulge in a Large order of fries. The BTS Meal, therefore, becomes less of a prescription and more of an ideal, which users can either merely dabble in or embrace whole-heartedly. I can guess what the ARMY will be ordering.

Arguably, the hard boundaries of the BTS Meal lie in the sauce component. If you – God forbid – dip your McNuggies in ketchup or mustard, are you truly participating in the BTS Meal experience? In my opinion, no. The sauces are the most essential component because they are the most limited and exclusive. These sauces only exist for this meal. McNuggets are forever.

<!--Valid BTS Meal-->

<BTS_Meal>
  <Drink Size="Large">Coke</Drink>
  <Main Size="10 Piece">Chicken McNuggets</Main>
  <Side Size="Large">French Fries</Side>
  <Sauce>Cajun</Sauce>
  <Sauce>Sweet Chili</Sauce>
</BTS_Meal>

<!--Valid Chicken McNuggets Meal, Invalid BTS Meal-->

<Chicken_McNuggets_Meal>
  <Drink Size="Medium">Coke</Drink>
  <Main Size="10 Piece">Chicken McNuggets</Main>
  <Side Size="Medium">French Fries</Side>
  <Sauce>Ketchup</Sauce>
  <Sauce>Mustard</Sauce>
</Chicken_McNuggets_Meal>

In my opinion, a meal that hits all of the optional BTS Meal attributes but violates the sauce requirements is at best a Chicken McNuggets meal, but it certainly isn’t a BTS Meal.

You might disagree. You might say that it’s the exclusive purple packaging that makes a meal BTS, and the sauces inside (maybe everything inside!) are merely filler.

There’s a discussion to be had, and implications either way. This is information architecture.

“This is information architecture,” says man biting into fast food.