McDonald's fixed customers' top complaint -- and now sales are soaring

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McDonald's just posted its best quarterly same-store sales gains in years.

Sales at restaurants open at least a year jumped 5 percent globally, including a 5.7 percent increase in the US, for the quarter ending December 31.

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McDonald's says its turnaround efforts are driving the momentum, and particularly the launch of all-day breakfast in October.

According to retail consulting firm Conlumino, the all-day breakfast launch and other menu tweaks have fixed customers' top complaint about McDonald's: lack of menu choice and variety.

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McDonald's fixed customers' top complaint -- and now sales are soaring
In this Jan. 20, 2012 photo, the McDonald's logo and a Happy Meal box with french fries and a drink are posed at McDonald's, in Springfield, Ill. McDonald's Corp. saw net income jump by 11 percent in the fourth quarter, as the fast-food giant continued to attract budget-conscious customers with low prices. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
A cheeseburger and fries meal from a McDonald's restaurant is seen in San Jose, Calif., Wednesday, July 22, 2009. McDonald's said Thursday, its second-quarter profit dipped 8 percent because of the stronger dollar and a gain that boosted results a year ago.(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A cheeseburger meal from a McDonald's restaurant is seen in San Jose, Calif., Wednesday, July 22, 2009.(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Big Mac meal from McDonald's

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Fast food ready meals on a tray at a McDonalds restaurant burger bar. (Photo by Danny Callcut via Alamy)
Mcdonalds sausage egg and cheese mcmuffin breakfast sandwich (Photo via Alamy)
McDonald's Big Mac on white plate on white background. (Photo via Alamy)
McDonald's quarter pounder with cheese on white background, isolated. (Photo via Alamy)
Cheeseburger (Photo via Alamy)
A McDonald's Corp. Big Mac meal is arranged for a photograph outside of a restaurant in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. McDonald's Corp., the world's largest restaurant chain, posted fourth-quarter profit that was little changed from a year earlier as U.S. same-store sales fell amid shaky consumer confidence and increased competition. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

"While this has added to operational complexity," Neil Saunders, CEO of Conlumino, wrote of all-day breakfast, "it has been a vital step in providing more choice and variety – which, according to our research, are two of the main things that lapsed McDonald's customers mentioned as reasons for their defection."

SEE ALSO: McDonald's beats on earnings and revenues, shares up 3%

In addition to all-day breakfast, McDonald's has expanded its customizable burger offerings and tested healthier items like kale salads in the last year.

While kale salads will "never the mainstay of McDonald's menu" and are arguably unlikely to attract highly health-conscious consumers, they are helping improve McDonald's public image, Saunders wrote.

There's a downside to these changes, however. Adding menu items brings more complexity to kitchen operations, and slows down service -- which has been another complaint from customers and a main source of frustration from franchisees.

But McDonald's has no choice if it wants to be competitive, according to Saunders.

"In our view this is very much a case of there being no alternative: the market has changed and the customer has slightly different priorities now to 10 years ago McDonald's had to move with the times or face continued deterioration," Saunders wrote.

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