McDonald's ousts US president after sales drop

Associated Press Modified: November 15, 2012 at 4:15 pm •  Published: November 15, 2012
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NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald's Corp. is hoping a leadership shake-up for its U.S. business can help it warm up sales and fight off intensifying competition.

The world's biggest hamburger chain said Thursday that Jan Fields, president of McDonald's USA, will be replaced by Jeff Stratton, its global chief restaurant officer, effective Dec. 1. The announcement comes less than a week after the fast-food giant reported its first monthly sales drop in nearly a decade.

A McDonald's spokeswoman said CEO Don Thompson and Fields are long-time friends and that they discussed the need for a change at the top. A number of business factors played a role in the decision, but recent sales figures were not among them, said Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem, a McDonald's spokeswoman.

"When you look at the size and scope of McDonald's, there are numerous factors go into a decision like this," she said. "It's difficult to isolate factors."

After years of outperforming its rivals, McDonald's has struggled recently amid intensifying competition at home and a persistently weak economy abroad. In October, the company reported its first monthly sales decline since March 2003. In a recent conference call with analysts, Thompson said the company would return its focus on its Dollar Menu after efforts to shift customers to a slightly more expensive "Extra Value Menu" fell flat.

That emphasis on value is in contrast to rivals such as Wendy's and Burger King, which have been introducing more premium offerings. Taco Bell, known for its affordable Mexican-style fare, also introduced its higher-end Cantina Bell bowls earlier this year. The moves are widely seen as a reaction to the growing popularity of chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread Co., which offer better quality food for slightly higher prices.

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