McDonald’s Struggles Worsened by Snow

NEW YORK (AP) -

McDonald’s is fighting to hold onto customers in the U.S. — and all that snow didn’t help.

The world’s biggest hamburger chain said Monday that sales fell 1.4 percent at established U.S. locations. It blamed the harsh winter weather, but conceded that “challenging industry dynamics” also played a role.

After years of outperforming its rivals, McDonald’s has been struggling to boost sales as people flock to other chains that have popped up quickly across the country by successfully positioning themselves as a step up from traditional fast food in terms of quality, for a little extra money.

Executives at McDonald’s Corp., based in Oak Brook, Ill., acknowledge Americans’ changing demands when it comes to fast food.

“A long time ago, mass appeal had to be mass appeal,” Jeff Stratton, the president of McDonald’s USA, said in an interview with The Associated Press last month. “That’s not necessarily the case anymore today.”

Globally, McDonald’s said sales declined 0.3 percent in February at locations open at least 13 months. It warned that its muted performance so far this year could hurt first-quarter profit margins.

In the region encompassing the Middle East, Africa and Asia, sales declined 2.6 percent. The company cited weakness in Japan and Australia, as well as a shift in the timing of the Chinese New Year.

Europe was a relative bright spot, with sales up 0.6 percent on a strong performance in the U.K. and growth in France.

McDonald’s has over 35,000 locations in more than 100 countries.