McDonald’s posted its first monthly drop in global sales in the month of October, the first time it’s done so in (wait for it) nine years.
That’s right, the last time the world shied away from Big Macs, George W. Bush was president, the U.S. hadn’t yet invaded Iraq, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was thinking about running for governor of California.
Seems like a long time ago.
Now, with all the news about the obesity crisis in America (a whopping one-third of the country is now considered obese), it might seem logical to conclude that a suddenly health-conscious citizenry in the U.S. is eschewing fast food for more wholesome fare. Alas, no one appears to think that’s the case.
In reality, market analysts are saying that “McDonald's is in many ways a victim of its own success,” according to Reuters. It’s grown faster than its rivals for years, and with more than 30,000 locations worldwide, it still dwarfs all its competitors. Not only has that spurred other chains to revamp their menus to compete with McDonald’s popular Dollar Menu, but everyone’s also now jockeying for customers while the global economy remains sluggish.
To wit, although monthly sales were down 2.4 percent at McDonald’s in the U.S. and Europe, sales at Wendy’s rose 2.7 percent in the third quarter. You might say, then, that plenty of people just swapped out their Quarter Pounders for a Dave’s Hot ’N Juicy. (The latter in fact being slightly less healthy than the former, with the Wendy’s burger clocking in at 580 calories and 14 grams of saturated fat to the Quarter Pounder’s 520 calories and 12 grams of saturated fat.)
Or they’re eating Whoppers. Reuters also reports Burger King sales rose 1.4 percent during the last quarter. Unfortunately, fast food clearly isn't going anywhere soon.
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Jason Best has worked for Gourmet and the Natural Resources Defense Council. He writes about food, sustainability and the environment.