McDonald's struggles worsened by snow

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 10, 2014 at 6:24 pm •  Published: March 10, 2014
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NEW YORK (AP) — McDonald's is fighting to hold onto customers in the U.S. — and all that snow didn't help.

The world's biggest hamburger chain said Monday that sales fell 1.4 percent in February at established U.S. locations. It blamed the harsh winter weather, but conceded that "challenging industry dynamics" also played a role.

After years of outperforming its rivals, McDonald's has been struggling to boost sales as people flock to places like Chipotle and Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Those chains have popped up quickly across the country by positioning themselves as a step up from traditional fast food in terms of quality, for a little extra money. They also offer greater customization, meaning diners can dictate exactly what toppings they want.

Executives at McDonald's Corp., based in Oak Brook, Ill., acknowledge Americans' changing demands when it comes to fast food.

"A long time ago, mass appeal had to be mass appeal," Jeff Stratton, the president of McDonald's USA, said in an interview with The Associated Press last month. "That's not necessarily the case anymore today."

So the company's restaurants are adapting to a world where McDonald's traditional strength — consistency — isn't always enough. For example, McDonald's is rolling out new prep tables that can hold more toppings and sauces, a sign that it plans to give customers greater variety.

In Southern California, the company is even testing a "build-your-own-burger" concept that lets people use tablets to tap out the bread, cheese and other toppings they want on their burgers. Executives say results are promising so far, but rolling out the offering across its more than 14,000 U.S. locations would require considerable changes to its kitchens.

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