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McDonald's earnings disappoint; key sales metric falls

McDonald’s said 2013 was a “difficult year,” with a decline in foot traffic pushing global sales at restaurants open at least a year down 0.1% in the fourth quarter.

The Oak Brook, Ill., fast food giant said so-called same store sales in the U.S. slipped 1.4% over the final three months of the year. Visits declined 1.6% nationwide over the period while dropping 1.9% around the world.

The company says it expects same store sales globally to be flat in January. Still, the chain, which has more than 34,000 total units, plans to expand its reach by as many as 1,600 new restaurants this year.

“Given the challenging year that we had in 2013, I want to reiterate that we remain committed to adapting to keep pace with changing markets,” said Chief Executive Don Thompson in a conference call with analysts Thursday.

The chain has faced increased competition from rivals such as Burger King, which has updated its value menu and boosted its health-focused options to stay in step with McDonald’s.

In the fourth quarter, McDonald’s brought in nearly $7.1 billion in revenue, up 2% from a year earlier but missing Wall Street’s expectations.

Thompson said new initiatives during the quarter “didn’t resonate as strongly with consumers.” In October, McDonald’s expanded its value menu, calling it Dollar Menu & More.

“We introduced a number of significant new products and limited-time offers at a quick pace that challenged more effective restaurant and marketing execution,” he said.

The company earned $1.4 billion, or $1.40 a share, up from $1.39 billion, or $1.38 a share a year earlier.

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