NEW YORK — McDonald’s used the Dollar Menu to help lift its profit in the latest quarter. Now the world’s biggest hamburger chain is turning to a pipeline of new menu items to boost slumping sales, starting with “Fish McBites.”
The Oak Brook, Ill.-based company is betting that it will be able to beat back intensifying competition and economic pressures with the lineup, which executives said includes new burgers, chicken entrees and breakfast offerings that are performing well in test markets. The Fish McBites, which will come in three sizes and use the same Alaskan pollock used in the Filet-O-Fish, are set to be launched as a limited-time addition in February.
The stepped up offerings come after McDonald’s managed to eke out a higher profit for the October-to-December period with a series of short-term maneuvers, such as touting its Dollar Menu, pushing back the two-week availability of its popular McRib to the second half of December when sales comparisons from a year-ago were tougher, and urging franchisees to stay open on Christmas.
In November, the company ousted the president of its U.S. business after a key sales figure dropped for the first time in nearly a decade. Without providing details, CEO Don Thompson said Wednesday that the figure is expected to fall again in January.
“By no means do we think 2013 is going to be an easy year,” Thompson said in a conference call with analysts. He noted that growth in the restaurant industry has been relatively flat-to-declining around the world, with that trend expected to continue.
In addition a more “robust” pipeline of new products, McDonald’s executives said they’ll boost sales by continuing remodeling efforts and extending store hours around the world.
For the October-to-December period, McDonald’s said sales at restaurants open at least a year rose 0.1 percent globally and 0.3 percent in the U.S. But in Europe, McDonald’s biggest market, the figure fell 0.6 percent as guest counts declined. It fell 1.7 percent in the region encompassing Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
McDonald’s plans to open between 1,500 and 1,600 restaurants this year. It currently has about 34,000.