Diners at McDonald's Corp in the United States stayed away from some higher-priced advertised items like Angus burgers and premium chicken sandwiches in April, amid a tepid U.S. recovery.
The world's biggest hamburger chain on Tuesday reported a smaller-than-expected rise in April sales at established restaurants around the world, largely due to a miss in the United States, where consumers remain cautious about their restaurant spending.
U.S. sales at McDonald's restaurants open at least 13 months rose 3.3 percent, less than the roughly 5 percent gain analysts' expected.
Global same-restaurant sales also were up 3.3 percent for April, falling short of the company's own forecast for a 4 percent increase.
McDonald's issued its global sales forecast on April 20 and the final results suggested that U.S. momentum flagged late in the month.
"First and foremost, the consumer continues to want value," Lazard Capital Markets analyst Matthew DiFrisco told Reuters.
Advertised premium chicken sandwiches and Angus burgers failed to meet sales targets, and it took longer than expected to roll out new blueberry banana nut oatmeal, Bernstein Research analyst Sara Senatore said in a client note.
McDonald's also promoted new "Extra Value Menu" items and combo meals with prices above the offerings on its famed "Dollar Menu."
The new menu includes 20-piece chicken McNuggets, double cheeseburgers, chicken snack wraps, Angus snack wraps, medium iced coffees, and snack-sized McFlurries, plus up to four regional options that were previously listed elsewhere on its menu.
"A relatively rare promotional misstep in the (United States) may have opened the door for competitors who have stepped up their competitive intensity," Senatore said.
The rivalry among U.S. fast-food chains is fierce and inflation at the grocery store is easing, making it harder for restaurants to raise prices to offset the higher cost of ingredients.
Those challenges exert more pressure on smaller chains such as Wendy's Co, which is the second-largest U.S. hamburger chain but just a fraction of the size of McDonald's.
Wendy's reported first-quarter profit on Tuesday below Wall Street's expectations due to the higher cost of fresh beef and a lower-than-expected same-restaurant sales gain of 0.8 percent at its company-operated North American restaurants.
Wall Street may have gotten ahead of itself in terms of expectations because of McDonald's stellar gains in recent months.
"The momentum they've had has been very strong," Steve West, a director at Investment Technology Group, told Reuters.