McDonald's to Get Fresher

Fast feeder looks to boost freshly prepared foods, offer more chicken

NEW YORK -- McDonald's Corp., entering its fourth year of a turnaround effort, is expecting to make more changes to its business, including menu items, reported Reuters.

You will see a greater variety of freshly prepared foods, with a specific focus on the chicken category and breakfast, Ralph Alvarez, president of McDonald's North America, said at this week's National Retail Federation (NRF) annual conference in New York.

McDonald's, which Alvarez said had fallen into the trap of focusing on getting bigger instead of getting [image-nocss] better, has been working to revitalize its business, rebuilding and refurbishing its restaurants, adding new menu items and changing its advertising to target specific consumers.

As a brand, we have to follow the trend, Alvarez said, referring to increasing demand for chicken items despite the fact that McDonald's got its start as a hamburger joint.

Alvarez also said the restaurant chain will expand its beverage offerings, and in March, it will begin putting nutritional information on all product packaging.

In order to respond to the hectic lives of its customers and the strong sales at its drive-thrus, he said McDonald's is working on on-the-go product packaging and putting side-by-side lanes at drive-thrus to speed up the flow of traffic.

Asked whether McDonald's would consider extending its breakfast hours, Alvarez said: It's something that we hope to be able to do some day but said it involves changing the setup of its kitchens.

Alvarez said McDonald's will continue to use targeted advertising on billboards, in magazines and on TV to reach its different customers, such as mothers or teenagers. It's no longer about a 30-second commercial during prime time, he said.

Meanwhile, the Oak Brook, Ill.-based corporation announced that global comparable sales rose 5% in December, on top of a 4.9% increase achieved for December 2004. Global comparable sales for the fourth quarter and year were 4.2% and 3.9%, respectively.

McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner said, "I'm pleased with the solid performance delivered under the Plan to Win and our ability to sustain the momentum we've created. The positive comparable sales achieved across all segments for the second consecutive year is evidence of the effectiveness of our ongoing customer-focused initiatives. Throughout 2005, we strengthened our business around the world with more quality food choices, greater convenience and an enhanced focus on the McDonald's restaurant experience.

He added, "In the U.S., comparable sales rose 4.4% for the month of December, reflecting the ongoing popularity of McDonald's signature breakfast menu and our premium chicken offerings. U.S. customers also responded positively to McDonald's Arch Cards, our new gift cards launched during the holidays.

Europe's comparable sales for the month were up 4.6%; in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa, comparable sales were up 5.9%.

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