Hey, Ronald, Have You Lost Weight?

When it comes to the fast-food fight for America's ever-expanding waistline, McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) still has that special sauce -- despite first impressions to the contrary.

On Tuesday, the burger baron reported its second quarterly loss in its history as a public company: a deficit of $711.7 million, or $0.60 per diluted share.

But that's not to suggest old Ronald has clogged arteries. To the contrary; McDonald's suffered a $1.6 billion one-time charge from the cost of selling the bulk of its Latin American locations to a major licensee, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Exclude the anomaly, and Mickey D's realized a 26.7% improvement in earnings from continuing operations. Revenue was also higher. McDonald's top line expanded by 12%, driven by a 7.4% systemwide gain in same-store sales -- the highest that metric has been since 2004.

Those results are all the more impressive when you consider how Wendy's (NYSE: WEN  ) is going bland, and Burger King (NYSE: BKC  ) is on the verge of losing its crown. What's the secret behind the sauce? Cheap prices and a diverse menu, says CEO Jim Skinner.

Quoting from the earnings press release: "... Second quarter performance reflects the ongoing benefit of a winning combination of initiatives that leverage McDonald's market-leading breakfast, menu innovation and convenience. We continue to offer great value and build customer loyalty by creating a more relevant McDonald's."

Easy, Jim. I've never thought McDonald's, with its Rule Breaking history, was in danger of becoming irrelevant. Besides, it's too easy to get hooked on the fries.

He's right about one thing, though. McDonald's is a market leader. It always has been, and from the looks of yesterday's results, it always will be.

Further Foolishness with a side of fries:

Fool contributor Tim Beyers orders the Egg McMuffin with sausage when he visits Mickey D's, which isn't often. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Find Tim's portfolio here and his latest blog commentary here. Starbucks is a Stock Advisor pick. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy is supersized.


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