McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) has been outperforming the market this year and recently set a new all-time high. A SWOT analysis -- a look at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats -- can help assess whether the fast-food giant can keep the growth on a high-calorie diet.


  • McDonald's has successfully rolled out new items like coffees, smoothies, and Angus burgers, expanding the range of menu choices.
  • With a strong product offering, the company has grown income throughout the recession, notching strong increases in same-store sales.
  • Operations are spread around the world, meaning the company is not exposed to just one currency or economy.
  • Even trading near its highs, McDonald's serves up sizzling dividend yields that top the 10-year Treasury. The yield comes with a side order of annual dividend hikes dating back to 1976. The annual dividend payment has gone from 55 cents per share in 2005 to $2.20 this year.
The outside of a McDonald's restaurant.

Image Source: McDonald's.


  • It will be harder and harder to find prime locations to build a set of golden arches. The U.S. is saturated with its restaurants, so growth will have to occur internationally, posing potential cultural challenges.
  • While the annual dividend hikes are likely to continue, the dividend growth rate has been slowing and will probably continue to slow or level off.


  • There are opportunities for new restaurants outside the United States, and McDonald's has been taking advantage of them. China is a great opportunity for the company, as is much of Asia.
  • Menu innovations are limited only by imagination.
  • Low interest rates provide cheap capital for growth. In addition to dollar-denominated debt, McDonald's recently became the first foreign company to issue yuan-denominated bonds in Hong Kong.


  • Governments are considering regulations targeting fast food.
  • McDonald's faces competition from strong peers such as recent 11 O'Clock Stock pick Yum! Brands and Burger King.
  • New product rollouts often have to go head-to-head with established players like Starbucks coffee or Jamba smoothies.
  • Commodity price increases could increase costs while a weak economy limits the ability to pass the price hikes through to consumers.

McDonald's is still attractive and deserves to be considered as a core holding for income-oriented investors, as my Foolish colleague Jim Royal argues. P/E ratios are in line with fast-food competitors, and the company is performing at or near the top of its industry. McDonald's has earned its new highs and is likely to set a few more in the coming months. Plus, the company has a massive $9 billion stock buyback ongoing.

What part of McDonald's SWOT needs more detail? Do you think more new highs are on the way or is the burger giant's stock going to be put on a diet? Weigh in with your thoughts below.

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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.