McDonald’s ends 2021 strong, but costs rising

McDonald’s ended 2021 on a high note with U.S. customers spending more and fewer restaurant closures in Europe from coronavirus restrictions.

The Chicago burger giant said global same-store sales —— or sales at restaurants open at least a year —— rose 12.3% in the quarter. That’s better than the 10.5% increase that Wall Street was expecting, according to analysts polled by FactSet.

In the U.S., same-store sales rose 7.5% as limited-time products like the McRib drew customers despite higher menu prices. McDonald’s said in the fall that U.S. prices would be 6% higher in 2021 than the prior year.

Revenue rose 13% to $6.01 billion, which was just shy of Wall Street expectations, according to a survey of industry analysts by FactSet, with sales crimped by coronavirus restrictions in Australia and China.

But McDonald’s was stung by rising prices and higher labor costs, which cut into profits. The Chicago company reported adjusted earnings of $2.23 per share, 11 cents short of Wall Street expectations.

McDonald’s raised hourly pay for 36,000 U.S. employees at its company-owned restaurants last year. Franchisees own 93% of McDonald’s 40,000 restaurants worldwide, but several thousand stores are owned by McDonald’s.

McDonald’s shares fell 2% before the opening bell Thursday.