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OAK BROOK, IL-R Gym, an interior play area developed by McDonald’s restaurant development team, is now operational in seven of the chain’s units. Bill Whitman, a spokesman for locally based McDonald’s USA, tells GSR, “technically, the concept is still in test.”

The initial R Gym, which takes its name from mascot Ronald McDonald, opened this spring in Tulsa, OK. Since then three have opened at units in California, two in Illinois and one in Colorado. Whitman says, “it’s a continuation of PlayPlace or Play Land,” which first opened in a McDonald’s unit in 1971.

This “evolution” of an in-restaurant play area, “utilizes more technology targeted to specific ages and physical abilities,” he says. “It’s an interactive play area where kids can be kids in a safe, fun environment.” Like PlayPlace, R Gym occupies, on average, a 20- by 50-foot space in the restaurants.

R Gyms contain three areas, each targeted to different age groups. The Toddler Zone features “soft play,” such as climbing and sliding and interaction with soft toys and is designed to promote physical coordination and social skills.

The Active Zone is geared to children from ages four through eight. It promotes physical fitness through fun play and includes an obstacle course.

The third area, the Sports Zone, is designed for children between the ages of nine and 12. It focuses on more aerobic activities, such as cycling and jumping.

A July press release, announcing the opening of an R Gym in Whittier, CA and released by that unit’s franchisee, says more than 20 R Gyms would be installed over the next year throughout California. However, Whitman says, “we’re continuing to make adjustments in the concept.”

He says, “response from customers has been very positive. We expect to offer customers more R Gyms next year,” he adds, but says there is no forecasted number of units to be rolled out. “The pace of the rollout will be up to our customers,” he says.

He also declines to disclose a cost of R Gym installation, saying, “that’s proprietary. It’s an investment in our customer and will be worked out in cooperation with our franchisees.”

He refutes published speculation that R Gym is designed to attract an older group of children or is in response to new and growing concerns about childhood obesity and dietary considerations. PlayPlace was geared to the same age spectrum, according to Whitman.

“Several years ago, we announced our commitment to a balanced, active lifestyle,” he says. That includes “a menu with a variety of choice,” and more nutritional information on menus and packaging. He describes R Gym as a continuation of that commitment.

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