Don't you like it when there's a changing of the guard at the top of a company without any anxious drama? Last night, McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) announced that Mike Roberts was stepping down as president and COO of the world's leading fast-food chain. McDonald's is promoting internally by handing both hats to Ralph Alvarez.

Alvarez had been overseeing the company's North American operations. I don't know much about Alvarez. He did graduate from the University of Miami business school 13 years before I did, so I have no problem cheering on a fellow Hurricane. If anything, it's good to see a business-school alum work his way up through an influential company, rather than an NFL squad's starting roster.

The transition should go smoothly, because McDonald's is running on all cylinders these days. Earlier this month, the company reported that comps have inched higher for 40 consecutive months. That's no easy feat, especially once you get past the first dozen months and the gains start to stack atop earlier gains.

Through the end of July, domestic comps have risen 4.8% in 2006, and that's not an isolated incident. The company is growing at similar rates overseas as well. That compares nicely to rival Burger King (NYSE:BKC), with its operating hiccups and slower-growing same-unit sales.

Mickey D's ascent has resulted from healthier menu introductions and robust marketing campaigns. In short, you won't see anyone waking up in bed next to Ronald McDonald. The strategy has also worked for Wendy's (NYSE:WEN).

Going healthy isn't the only fix in the quick-service industry. Chains like CKE Restaurants (NYSE:CKR) and Checkers have cashed in by going in a more decadent direction. McDonald's success hasn't been so much in embracing healthier eats as in embracing high-margin salads and chicken sandwiches, which the fast-food juggernaut can sell at a premium to a wider audience.

Well done, Roberts. Continued success, Alvarez. If only all transitions could be this easy.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz enjoys those healthy Apple Dipper slices at McDonald's -- but only because they come with those caramel dipping-sauce cups. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.The Fool has a disclosure policy.