On October 22 McDonald’s (MCD) reported third quarter earnings of $2.11 a share. That was a big 11 cents a share below Wall Street expectations. Revenue of $5.43 billion for the quarter was up just 1.1% year over year and $40 million below Wall Street consensus. The shares, which closed at $210.11 on October 21 (before the news) tumbled 5.24% to close at $196.02 on October 24.
The big problem was company’s home market in the United States, a market that accounts for about one-third of the company’s sales. U.S. same store sales grew by 4.8%, but that was a drop from the 5.7% growth in the prior quarter and below analyst projections. Same store sales grew globally by 5.9%. And that U.S. growth sales growth was a result of higher prices as traffic in U.S. stores was down for the quarter. There’s no doubt that the U.S. quick service space continues to get more competitive with companies like Wendy’s (WEN) announcing that they will roll out breakfast, companies like Popeye’s (a unit of Restaurant Brands (QSR) ) set to relaunch a chicken sandwich offering in November that sold out when it was introduced in September, and companies like Burger King (another unit of Restaurant Brands) spending big to introduce a plant-based Whopper.
So what are the implications of the McDonald’s miss?
First, I expect McDonald’s to continue its technology focus using dynamic yield technologies (including those acquired in the recent purchase of AI machine learning personalization startup Dynamic Yield for $300 million) to personalize offerings from the company’s digital ordering system (ranging from kiosks to online delivery) to customers based on time of day, weather, general order trends, and the McDonald’s food items that the customer has already ordered. McDonald’s is far and away the leader in such order and menu personalization among quick service restaurant companies.
Second, I expect McDonald’s to speed up the introduction of a new chicken sandwich to match Popeye’s and Chick-fil-A, and to spring board from the test of a plant-based burger started with September to a chain-wide roll out on an accelerated schedule.
The biggest impact of that last development will be on the shares of the partner that McDonald’s will ultimately choose to supply its plant-based burger (tentatively named the PLT.) With (still private) Impossible Burger working with Burger King, the odds are that the pick will go to Beyond Meat (BYND), especially because McDonald’s is already working with that company on its Ontario, Canada test of a plant-based burger. I doubt that McDonald’s will move all that quickly (it’s not the company’s style on new menu items) especially since McDonald’s will want to make sure that Beyond Meat can handle the massive 50% increase in production that a deal with McDonald’s would require.
Still it’s something to keep in mind. As are other efforts at the company to push U.S. traffic and sales growth higher.
I’d keep an eye on McDonald’s shares for further near-term weakness and positive longer-term developments. The shares, by the way, currently yield 2.42%.