McDonald's global sales rose 2.7 percent at established locations as growth overseas offset a drop in the U.S.
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The world's biggest burger chain attributed the decline at home to a tough comparison from the year-ago quarter, when it launched its all-day breakfast menu. The results nevertheless illustrate challenges for McDonald's in its push to revitalize its image while facing broader industry challenges, including supermarkets and convenience stores selling more prepared foods and cheaper groceries encouraging people to eat at home.
Earlier this month, The NPD Group said it expects customer traffic for the restaurant industry to remain "stalled" this year, as it was in 2016.
The U.S. sales decline of 1.3 percent for the final three months of 2016 snaps a streak of five quarters of increases. But those increases mostly reflect higher spending per visit, which could be the result of higher prices or people ordering different menu items. For the year, McDonald's saw guest counts at established U.S. locations decline 2.1 percent, according to a regulatory filing.
That marks the fourth straight year of declining guest counts at established U.S. locations. The company also trimmed its U.S. store base for the second year in a row after decades of expansion. McDonald's, based in Oak Brook, Illinois, ended the year with 14,155 U.S. locations.
Globally, it expanded and had 36,899 locations at year's end.
The company said its International Lead unit, which includes the United Kingdom, saw sales rise 2.8 percent at established locations. The High Growth unit, which includes China, saw sales increase 4.7 percent. Sales at established locations for the Foundational segment, which includes Japan, rose 11.1 percent.
McDonald's Corp. said it earned $1.44 per share for the fourth quarter, topping the $1.41 per share that Wall Street expected, according to FactSet.
Revenue was $6.03 billion, above the $6 billion analysts expected.