After a 2015 when analysts were declaring the Big Mac dead — displaced by the Chipotle burrito — the New Year has been something of a change of pace for the recently embattled fast food purveyor. According to CNBC reports, Nomura restaurant analyst Mark Kalinowski believes that Micky D’s is on track to report its best quarterly earnings in the last 15 quarters — and for the first time in some time, franchise owners are feeling upbeat about the profit and revenue picture for the upcoming year.
All in, Kalinowski bumped his fourth-quarter same-store sales estimate to 4.1 percent — a big step up from the average analyst prediction on the Street these days. He is also forecasting same-store sales during the first quarter will enjoy an increase of 3.8 percent.
So what is in McDonald’s turnaround sauce?
Fruit, apparently, if reporting in USA Today is to be believed.
McDonald’s officials announced earlier this week that the firm most famous for its fries is now approaching sales of 2 billion in fruit and yogurt sides in its Happy Meal marketed to children.
“It’s really impactful,” Jessica Foust, McDonald’s chef and director for culinary innovation, told USA Today. “If you were to look at this and spread it across the population that would mean that we delivered 27 fruit and low fat yogurt servings to every single kid in America, which is tremendous.”
The switch to more focus on fitness and healthy food comes following a 2013 commitment to he Alliance for a Healthier Generation at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. The world’s most successful fast food chain agreed to improve access of fruits and vegetables at its restaurants and help families make more informed choices about food. The program also led to the emergence of a variety of side salads as a fries alternative and took soda out as an option for a beverage in a kids meal.
Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance, said the effects have been notable. When give a choice at the counter, about 87 percent of children chose fruit, while 13 percent chose Go-Gurt, according to McDonald’s data.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity to get kids, particularly low-income kids, used to whole fruits that perhaps they haven’t been exposed to enough,” Wechsler said. “We need to make lot more progress at getting kids eating whole fruits.”
With its push of healthier options in Happy Meals, McDonald’s says it serves nearly twice the fruit and yogurt than the combined sales of Starbucks, Panera Bread, Subway, Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A, Burger King and Sonic.