The burger chain that put “supersize” into the American vernacular is slimming down: For the first time in more than 40 years, and perhaps ever, McDonald’s says the number of U.S. restaurants it has is shrinking.
McDonald’s plans to close more restaurants in the U.S. than it opens this year, according to the world’s biggest hamburger chain. That hasn’t happened since at least 1970, according to an Associated Press review of McDonald’s regulatory filings.
Becca Hary, a McDonald’s spokeswoman, declined to provide a specific figure but said the reduction would be “minimal” compared with its total of about 14,300 U.S. locations.
Still, the contraction is symbolic of troubles under the Golden Arches and how it’s trying to regroup.
The company enjoyed rapid expansion for much of its history by offering consistent food at affordable prices. It even thrived during the recession, when its Dollar Menu drew in people trying to save money and new products like McCafe coffee drove up sales.
But since then, chains like Chipotle that market themselves as serving better food and ingredients have chipped away at McDonald’s dominance. A new breed of “better burger” chains such as Five Guys Burgers and Fries is taking away customers, too.
McDonald’s past success led to “a natural overconfidence,” said John Gordon, a restaurant industry analyst with Pacific Management Consulting Group.