Amid intensifying concern over surging obesity rates, the chain has distanced itself from its fast-food origins, adding café-friendly items such as fruit smoothies and dolling up restaurants with free WiFi and padded seats. While the shift helped to revive sales growth last year -- McDonald’s has credited McCafe coffee for revenue growth in six of the past seven quarters -- the new adults-only ambiance leaves little room for Ronald.

“He kind of represents the old McDonald’s, with the high- fat content foods that are kind of falling out of favor,” said Bob Dorfman, the executive creative director at Baker Street Advertising in San Francisco. “It’s clear that McDonald’s is advertising coffee, they’re not advertising burgers.”