By Emily Bryson York
December 10, 2012
Has McDonald's had too much of a good thing? Covering McDonald’s and the rest of the fast food industry has been interesting over the last month because it’s served as a lesson in what happens when expectations aren’t met – no matter how inflated they become.
After nearly a decade of gains, McDonald’s reported one month – just one – of declining same store sales in the U.S. That means stores open more than one year sold less this October than they did last October. It was a tough bar because this October had one fewer Saturday, which is usually their busiest day. This happened at a time when their competition began to show the first signs of life in almost four years.
This was a big story because after so many years of defying gravity, things seemed like they were about to get competitive again in the fast food industry. McDonald’s still accounts for about half of total sales in the hamburger category in this country. But Burger King and Wendy’s have reported small gains recently, though that’s a lot easier to do when you’ve got a low bar for comparison.
So what about McDonald's, a global brand with deep Chicago ties?
A lot of reports have questioned whether the golden era is over at McDonald’s. That seems unlikely, given the share of the market they command. But it may be their years of unchecked growth are coming to a close. Within the last five years, the average McDonald’s store in the area went from $2 million in average annual sales to $2.5 million. A lot of experts wonder what McD's have to do to get that to $3 million. Add another kitchen? Start selling Bulls tickets?
While most experts fully expect the chain to come back and be just as dominant as it was before (sales were back up in November), right now McDonald’s seems to be a victim of its own very stunning success.
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