Investors have some good reasons to follow McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) earnings report on Tuesday, July 28. The fast-food titan's fiscal second quarter runs from early April through late June, which means it syncs up almost exactly with the worst impact to date from the coronavirus pandemic. But while that unusual operating situation will ensure significant drops in customer traffic and earnings, CEO Chris Kempczinski should make positive comments on growth trends over the past few weeks.

McDonald's might even reveal a quick return to sales gains in a few markets, thanks in part to its booming drive-through and delivery businesses.

Let's take a closer look at the metrics to watch.

Friends sharing a fast-food meal.

Image source: Getty Images.

It all comes down to June

Thanks to a mid-quarter growth update, investors already have a good idea about McDonald's sales results through the roughest operating days to date of the global pandemic. Comparable store sales were down 30% overall during the eight weeks that ended on May 31, management said last week. That means growth was further pressured after revenue dove 22% in the month of March, as social distancing efforts began in Europe and North America and only started lessening in China.

Yet the big number to watch in Tuesday's report is sales trends during June. McDonald's noted big improvements from April to May in both the U.S. and international segments. Its home market revenue slump lessened to just 5% in May from 19% the previous month. This week's report might show that the fast-food giant edged back into positive territory during the last few weeks of the quarter, even if overall global comps will be down by more than 20%.

Pressing its advantages

The fast food industry is one of the hardest hit from pandemic-influenced changes in consumer behavior. But a few of McDonald's assets make it well-suited to the challenge. There's its value focus, which positions it well for today's recessionary selling conditions. Domino's in early July demonstrated how that approach can deliver outsized demand spikes that McDonald's has a chance to target.

Its bigger asset is its massive and efficient drive-through platform. Signs of the increasing value of this service have popped up in a few places recently, most notably with chains like Chipotle and Shake Shack pouring resources into that sales channel. McDonald's has a big head-start here, and that's why executives will likely credit the platform for powering its move back toward global growth in recent weeks.

A strong start to the second half of 2020?

McDonald's doesn't issue sales outlooks, and that situation isn't likely to change while consumer demand is so volatile. But Kempczinski and his team are expected to comment on the latest customer traffic trends in rebounding markets like parts of Europe and China.

Their volume experience as U.S. states reopened their economies in June and July will say a lot about whether investors can expect to see the core domestic business sustainably start growing again before the end of the year. And McDonald's plans for marketing its value menu and capitalizing on its drive-through and delivery capabilities will provide more hints about the chain's prospects for winning market share during what's sure to be a brutal industry shake-out period ahead.