McDonald's Holds down Dollar Meal, Making Menu Healthier

on May 22 2008 8:41 PM

Oak Brook, Ill-based McDonald's Corp. said Thursday it's making the menu healthier and will uphold its Dollar Menu in spite of a tough economy.

We're the value leader. We always have been, and they expect us to continue to be the value leader, Chief Executive Jim Skinner said at a press briefing after the company's annual meeting.

As U.S. consumers deal with a slowing economy, unemployment rates increase and costs rise for necessities such as gas and food, boosting the popularity of McDonald's low-price dollar menu items, which include a double cheeseburger or a hot fudge sundae.

Commodity costs are rising more than we have seen in a dozen years, McDonald's President Ralph Alvarez said. Still, in today's environment, we can't pass on all our costs.

Alvarez said the company has been somewhat protect from the impact of higher fuel prices as many of its customers do not have to travel more than two miles to find a store.

We are very close to all of our customers. That provides us some insulation, Alvarez said.

Earlier this month, McDonald's said sales at restaurants open at least 13 months rose 5 percent globally in April, boosted by strong results from China, Australia and Russia.

The restaurant giant also announced it has completed switching to transfat-free cooking oil for french fries sold in the U.S. The company plans to be using transfat-free oil in its bakery products by the end of the year. Health advocates have been urging the company and other restaurants for years to get rid of artery-clogging transfat.

The commitment we made on trans-fat was really around the french fry, and we have lived up to our commitment and achieved it in the U.S., Skinner said. In fact, we have been done for a couple of months.

McDonald's shares closed down 25 cents at $58.53 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.