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McDonald’s comeback plan lags

CANDICE CHOI
The Associated Press

McDonald’s is trying stage a comeback, and offering Egg McMuffins all day won’t be enough to get more people in its restaurants.

The world’s biggest burger chain said U.S. sales dipped 1.3 percent at established locations for the final three months of the year. Customer traffic also continued to slide for all of 2016 despite the rollout of an all-day breakfast menu, marking the fourth straight year of declines

domestically. Since the start of 2013, customer counts are down 10 percent at estab­lished U.S. locations.

Global outlook: Overseas, the company’s quarterly performance was better, and sales rose globally.

The Oak Brook, Illinois-based company attributed the sales decline at home to a tough comparison from the year-ago period, when it introduced the all-day breakfast menu that generated enormous buzz online.

The results underscore the hurdles for McDonald’s as it pushes to revitalize its image while facing broader challenges, including convenience stores selling more foods and cheaper groceries encouraging people to eat at home. The NPD Group said this month it expects customer traffic for the overall restaurant industry to remain “stalled” this year, as it was in 2016.

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook said the com­pany expects to start drawing more customers with compelling value deals and con­venient ways to order. It also recently introduced its Big Mac in different sizes and has been testing fresh beef for some of its burgers.

Not alone: The company isn’t alone in struggling to attract more customers. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has said the retail landscape would undergo a “seismic” change as people do more of their shopping online, leading to less foot traffic in general. The coffee chain has delivered consistent growth in recent years but saw its transactions at established U.S. locations slip by 1 percent in the previous quarter. Starbucks reports its results for last three months of 2016 later this week.

McDonald’s, meanwhile, has conceded that it failed to keep up with changing tastes and it’s speeding up efforts to transform into a “modern, progressive burger company.”

The U.S. sales decline for the last three months of 2016 snaps a streak of five quarterly increases. Those increases could have been driven by higher prices or people ordering pricier or extra menu items. For all of 2016,

McDonald’s saw customer counts decline 2.1 percent at established locations, according to a regulatory filing.