McDonald’s sees traffic gain in 4.1% comp rise

McDonald’s shook off a longtime decline in customer counts to post a 4.1% increase in U.S. same-store sales for the third quarter, a feat it attributed to simultaneously aiming high and low with its menu.

Comps rose 6% on a global basis, with every geographical division seeing an increase in traffic, the resurging chain said.

Although McDonald’s has been posting positive quarterly sales comps, much of the increase has come from changes in pricing and mix. Traffic slipped last year by 2.1%.

Now, CEO Steve Easterbrook said in releasing the Q3 results, “We are serving more customers, more often.”

In March, the chain tweaked its turnaround strategy to focus on bolstering traffic. The emphasis, Easterbrook said at the time, would be on retaining current customers, increasing visits from “casual” patrons, and reclaiming guests who had pitched the brand and shifted their loyalty to competitors.

The most effective tactic in the third quarter was McDonald’s so-called barbell strategy, according to the franchisor. The brand targeted bargain hunters with an offer of $1 soft drinks and $2 hot beverages, while also touting a McPick 2 deal that allows customers to bundle two menu choices for a savings.  Simultaneously, McDonald’s pushed a new Signature Crafted sandwich line, which enables guests to customize premium burgers and chicken sandwiches.

Overall, McDonald’s revenues fell 10%, a function of the refranchising of company stores, the franchisor noted. Net income jumped 48%, to $1.88 billion.

Among the next steps in the chain's turnaround push is a switch to fresh beef for its Quarter Pounder sandwiches and the continuing high-tech revamp of stores that's aimed at bolstering sales for off-premise consumption.

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