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Food & Drink

Not lovin' it: McDonald's is trying to fix its business

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The chain will unveil initial details on a plan to turn around its fortunes on May 4. (Reuters)

When it comes to McDonald's, everyone seems to have an opinion about what the company needs to do differently.

After turning in another quarter of sliding sales and profit, McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook said the chain will unveil initial details on a plan to turn around its fortunes on May 4. Among the challenges it faces are intensifying competition and an image for serving junk food that it just can't seem to shake.

Already this year, McDonald's has given a nod to the "clean label" trend with a simplified grilled chicken recipe, and announced plans to curb the use of antibiotics in raising chickens. In March it also hosted a "Turnaround Summit" for franchisees in the U.S.

The company isn't providing specifics on what will be revealed in May. But McDonald's is one of those names that elicit strong opinions from all corners — and many of them conflict:

EGG MCMUFFINS AROUND THE CLOCK

McDonald's recently began testing an all-day breakfast menu in San Diego, and some are already calling on the company to take it national.

John Gordon, a restaurant industry analyst, said it's just one way McDonald's could start increasing customer visits to stores, given the enormous popularity of its breakfast menu.

For now, most McDonald's restaurants in the U.S. serve breakfast until about 10:30 a.m. In the test, McDonald's is only serving select breakfast items.

ADD VEGGIE LOVE TO THE MENU

People are increasingly seeking out vegetarian options, even if they're not converting into strict vegetarians, said Paul Sha­piro, a spokes­man for The Humane Society of the United States. He said that means it's time McDonald's offers a vegetarian option.

Shapiro noted that many other chains already court people who feel like skipping meat. Chi­potle introduced a vegan topping called Sofri­tas. Denny's and Johnny Rockets have veggie burgers, and White Castle recently said it would make veggie sliders a permanent part of its menu after their popularity as a limited-time offer.

"So many of McDonald's competitors are serving plant-based entrees, and McDonald's is lagging behind," Sha­piro said.

RAISE WAGES

In a column in The Chicago Tribune, Easterbrook said he wants to transform McDonald's into a "modern, progressive burger company on many fronts," focusing on perceptions about its food and workers.

It came right after McDonald's said it would raise the starting wage for workers to $1 above the local minimum wage. But labor organizers — who are calling for $15 an hour — said the move falls far short, especially since it only applies to company-owned stores, which account for a tenth of U.S. locations.

Robert Reich, a U.S. labor secretary in the Clinton adminstration and supporter of the Fight for $15 campaign, said raising wages across the chain would not only mend the chain's image as an employer, but lower its worker turnover and help business.

GO BACK TO BASICS

While some say McDonald's needs to change more quickly, others say it has strayed too far and needs to get back to focusing on what it does best: affordable burgers and fries.

"Nobody is going to argue that McDonald's fries are bad," said Laura Ries, president of marketing firm Ries & Ries in Atlanta.

She said McDonald's should stop chasing trends and trying to appeal to everyone.