It's got to be a sweet moment for the folks at McDonald's
It's the comps, folks. As the proud PR reads, this is month 29 for positive same-store sales in the U.S. business, the longest streak in a quarter-century. For those keeping score, the global comps increase was 3.4%, for a 4.4% increase overall -- in constant currencies. HQ gave the nod to premium chicken sandwiches and extended hours, among other factors.
Those of us who remember the bad old days recall that premium sandwiches actually caused a lot of the trouble back then. It seemed a logical move: Try to compete with hungry peers like Sonic
But we also remember how horribly these efforts flopped.
Employees were spending so much time trying to get things right with overly-complex menu items that they couldn't even get a french fry cooked correctly, let alone move us hungry sheep through the lines with any speed. Cold, nasty burgers, slimy, flexible fries, and I was supposed to get excited about a burger served with the hot side hot and the cold side cold? I remember turning my nose up in disgust and walking out for years. And I wasn't the only one. Sales sagged. The stock dumped. People even said that the firm might cease to exist. Sounds insane now, but that was part of the buzz.
Since then, of course, McDonald's became the poster boy of turnarounds. It brought star CEO Jim Cantalupo out of retirement to right the ship, which he did to incredible success until his untimely death. He listened to franchisees, got the company back to basics, and -- surprise, surprise -- customers came back to spend more and more. Again and again. As they have for more than two years now.
But with success comes expectations for more, and that's what we've got with premium chicken, again. But I don't expect them to get it wrong this time around. McDonald's is a much healthier place these days, both on the menu and in its operations. Although it's no longer the dirt-cheap value it once was, shareholders can be pretty confident that the good news will continue. Its margins continue to be many times better than industry averages, and returns on investment are high. Despite the stock's admirable run, it remains pretty reasonably priced, at least compared with its historical multiples. On top of that, its free cash flow profitability has grown even more quickly than earnings per share. It may be too much to say that I'm lovin' the food. (I eat it, but hey, it's just McD's.) The stock, on the other hand -- I could learn to love that.
For related Foolishness:
- Relive the turnaround, and wonder why you didn't buy.
- Is McDonald's at fault for the embiggening of America?
- This stock? I'm lovin' it.
Seth Jayson still kicks himself for missing out on McDonald's stock during the dark times. At the time of publication, he had no positions in any company mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.