McDonald's menu to display calorie counts

The fast-food chain continues its health push in an attempt to get back on track.

By InvestorPlace Sep 12, 2012 11:50AM
Shaun Tandon, AFP, Getty ImagesBy Alyssa Oursler

Keep an eye out next time you place an order at McDonald's (MCD). On Wednesday, the fast-food chain announced plans to begin posting the calorie count for all menu items.

The move comes as the company struggles with lackluster growth and looks to lure customers any way possible.

In India, for example, that means appealing to the vegetarian population. Here at home, it means appealing to the many health-conscious Americans.

Panera (PNRA), which is adding drive-thru options at many of its restaurants and has seen booming success this year, became the first major chain to post such information, more than two years ago. And consumers, regulators and activists have been pushing for more companies to follow Panera's lead, USA Today reports.

McDonald's announcement is surprising, though, considering the company has fought such a requirement. At the same time, it does fall in line with the chain's recent overall push toward better nutritional quality and transparency.

McDonald's was one of the first major chains to eliminate trans fat from its fries, offer fruit in kids' meals and sell a range of salads, for example.

More recently it began shifting its menu away from beef, since chicken boasts not only fewer calories but lower costs. It also plans to add more seasonal fruit and veggie options, along with a possible egg-white breakfast sandwich on a whole-grain English muffin.

Because McDonald's is the leader of the fast-food gang, other chains often follow its lead. Burger King (BKC), for one, also announced a limited-time-only menu with numerous new chicken offerings.

Activists hope Burger King, Wendy's (WEN) and YUM Brands' (YUM) Taco Bell and KFC, to name a few, will follow with calorie information.

Still, being a leader in an industry doesn't  guarantee success. In fact, the chain's many changes could be a direct response to its struggles. Same-store sales missed forecasts again last month, while July's figures were the worst showing in almost a decade for the company.

As a result, investors haven't been too hot on the stock. MCD is in the red nearly 10% since January, despite the fact that it offers a dependable dividend with more than a 3% yield.

It remains to be seen whether McDonald's many tweaks will be enough to offset the global slowdown. Maybe with new nutritional knowledge and more nutritional options consumers and investors will start snacking on the popular chain once again.

As of this writing, Alyssa Oursler did not own a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

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