McDonald's Customer Traffic Nosedive In One Chart

Hayley Peterson

McDonald's customer traffic problem is getting worse.

The company reported disappointing first quarter earnings Tuesday, due in large part to a 1.7% decline in comparable sales in the U.S. McDonald's attributed the results to "challenging industry dynamics" and bad weather, which depressed customer traffic.

Globally, McDonald's comparable guest visits were down 3.1% in the first quarter, compared to a 1.9% decline during the same period a year earlier, according to the company's latest SEC filing. 

That's a drastic change from just four years ago, when the company was seeing nearly 5% growth in customer traffic annually. Growth has been slowing ever since.

Here's a look at McDonald's troubling customer traffic trends since 2010.

"In the near term, we are prioritizing our efforts around those elements of the restaurant experience that are most impactful—offering the best food and beverage options and delivering outstanding service," he said in a statement Tuesday. "We are intent on pursuing initiatives that will strengthen our relationship with our customers to reignite our business momentum."

McDonald's troubles are representative of a broader problem in the fast food industry, as consumer demand grows for healthier meal options.

Guest counts at fast food restaurants were flat last year compared to a year earlier, while fast casual chains — such as Chipotle and Panera — saw 8% average growth in traffic, according to The NPD Group.

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