by Mish

Still it is a sign of Multiple Problems for McDonald’s

On Wednesday, McDonald’s had reported an 11% decrease in revenue and a 30% drop in profit for the first three months of year, a continuation of its troubles in the last two years as it has struggled to compete with new U.S. competitors, a tough economy in Europe and a food safety scare in Asia.

McDonald’s CFO Kevin Ozan told analysts that the shuttered stores in China, where comparable sales fell 4.8% in the first quarter, had been underperforming for years. In Japan, where McDonald’s is still reeling from the food safety scare last summer, the closed stores were “heavy loss maker restaurants.” As for the U.S., comparable sales were down 2.3%, one of their biggest drop in years as chains like Chipotle ate into sales.

In the last few months, it has made a few moves that telegraph where it is heading, though it is pretty clear how big the challenge will be for the Golden Arches.

For instance, earlier in April the company announced it is testing out a larger, pricier, third-of-a-pound burger for $5, two years after dropping the similar Angus burger line because they were too pricey for McDonald’s diners. Despite that earlier failure, new CEO Steve Easterbrook expressed confidence his customers would go for premium burgers.

But he faces an uphill battle in winning over the millions of burger-eaters in the U.S. that have a dim view of McDonald’s offerings: Nation’s Restaurant News published a survey this month rating 111 limited-service chains on 10 attributes including food quality, and McDonald’s was ranked No. 110, ahead only of Chuck E. Cheese. In-N-Out Burger topped the list.

And he also has to get the thousands of franchisees, who own 80% of McDonald’s locations, on board as he works to transform the company, even as many are still smarting from his decision to raise wages at company-owned U.S. restaurants.

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Low Quality at Premium Prices

Can you sell low-quality “premium” burgers in a place that looks like crap? Other than its breakfast menu there is almost nothing I will touch at McDonald’s.

Fools cheered when McDonalds and Walmart raised wages.

Here is the other side of the coin: Is McDonalds or any chain going to expand rapidly if wage pressures mount?

Store Cannibalization

Every hike in wages is another marginal store that won’t make it, or will not get built in the first place. All these chains do is cannibalizing each other’s business.

Every market share gain by Chipotle is a loss by McDonald’s, Applebees, Burger King, or someplace else.

Supersaturation

Cities are supersaturated with fast food junk. Saturation also applies to grocery stores, sporting goods stores, Target, Home Depot, Lowes, etc.

I keep wondering when it ends.

I don’t have the answer, but it will, and I actually suspect soon. The trigger could easily be the rise in wages. When it happens it will be sudden and “unexpected”.

Expect another round of “no one could possibly see this coming”.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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