Economic Challenges Shake Up Fast Food Industry: Starbucks and McDonald’s Sales Slide


Major players in the fast food industry are scrambling to bounce back from disappointing first-quarter performances.

Economists predicted that consumers would reign in their spending amid rising prices of food and the cost of eating out. It finally hit popular American staples McDonald’s and Starbucks, both of which reported same-store sales declines this quarter.

“Let me be clear from the beginning, our performance this quarter was disappointing,” Starbucks Chief Executive Officer Laxman Narasimhan said during an earnings call.

The company reported a decline in same-store sales for the first time since 2020 and slashed its full-year sales outlook, prompting concerns for the coffee giant, which traditionally reports strong earnings.

U.S. same-store sales fell 3 percent, a significant fall from the same quarter one year ago when they grew 12 percent. Meanwhile, same-store sales in China, its second-largest market, fell 11 percent.

“We face a challenging operating environment,” Mr. Narasimhan said.

“Headwinds discussed last quarter have continued in a number of key markets, we continue to feel the impact of a more cautious consumer, particularly with our more occasional customer, and a deteriorating economic outlook has weighed on customer traffic and impact felt broadly across the industry,” he stated to investors.

However, Starbucks is brewing a bounceback, according to the executive. The “action plans” include more promotions and speedier customer service.

People stand outside a Starbucks closed for the day in Los Angeles on July 12, 2022. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Customers who have grown some angst toward the brand cited factors to its downfall.

“To me, they deserve their earnings report not for their pricing but their quality and customer service,” Christine Mayes, a Starbucks customer, told NTD News. “Starbucks’ only saving grace is they are everywhere, making it more convenient,” she stated.

The California resident said she is willing to purchase coffee as long as it holds its quality. “I pay for Better Buzz, so it’s not the spending. Better Buzz is certified organic coffee, and it’s 99 percent consistent.”

Pool of Fast-Food Customers Shrinking

While economists predicted the consumer pullback, it took a while to hit major players in the fast food industry. McDonald’s missed quarterly profit estimates for the first time in two years as consumers became more budget-conscious.

This comes after the company raised its prices over the past year in response to a rise in costs of eggs and other items.

“The consumer is certainly being very discriminating in how they spend their dollar … I think it’s important to recognize that all income cohorts are seeking value,” Chris Kempczinski, McDonald’s CEO, said during a post-earnings call. The pool of fast-food customers is shrinking, the executive acknowledged.

The parent company of Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), and Taco Bell blamed earlier snowstorms in part for its poor performance. Yums Brand saw a drop in global same-store sales on weak demand compared to a strong first quarter last year.

taco bell shooting
Taco Bell in a file photo. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, file)

Weak quarterly results for the fast-food chains show that even those who are willing to purchase their favorite items have been pickier about what they spend it on, meaning more competition for a smaller pool of customers.

Furthermore, it used to be that dining in was cheaper than eating out. Even though prices for groceries have experienced a slow and steady increase, the dining-out costs at limited-service restaurants have climbed faster than that of eating at home, according to data from the recent Consumer Price Index (CPI).

While some of these fast-food restaurants have experienced pullback from consumers, others have managed to keep their loyal customers. For example, Chipotle experienced a boost in business, even though their prices are more expensive compared to a year ago.

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