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NEW YORK -- Consumers hungry for cheap meals boosted worldwide sales at McDonald's Corp.'s established locations by 7.7 percent in November, more proof of how the fast-feeder is thriving in a downturn that has eaten into sales at its competitors.
Even recession-weary consumers in the U.S. were enticed by the Golden Arches during the month, as U.S. same-store sales (or sales at locations open at least a year) rose 4.5 percent from the same month a year earlier, The Associated Press reported.
The Oak Brook, Ill.-based chain said the increase came from strong sales of breakfast items, chicken sandwiches and the chain's value menu options. These gains come even as U.S. consumers increasingly opt for eating at home to conserve cash.
"I think what you're seeing is that McDonald's has so far been relatively immune to the recession," David Morris, senior analyst at consumer research firm Mintel, told the AP.
The past few months have been difficult ones for the restaurant industry as the now yearlong recession deepens. Restaurants have seen traffic decline as consumers curb their spending, and have faced higher ingredient costs that have shrunk margins, the AP said.
McDonald's has largely been able to keep its profits intact despite the higher costs. But the chain has had to make changes to its menu to protect its margins, including raising the price of its popular Double Cheeseburger and replacing the sandwich on the Dollar Menu with a new double burger that has one slice of cheese instead of two, the report noted.
Although its November sales exceeded most analysts' expectations, the rise was slightly lower than the 8.2 percent increase in global same-store sales that the company saw in October. Same-store sales are a key indicator of restaurant performance since they measure sales at existing locations rather than newly opened ones.
"Convenient locations, extended hours and quality food at an outstanding value are all reasons why people are choosing McDonald's," said Chief Executive Jim Skinner.
McDonald's has been focusing on staying open longer to gain customers during the late-night and early morning hours. The company has also added Southern Style chicken sandwiches and breakfast biscuits, as well as espresso-based lattes and other drinks in a bid to gain more customers, according to the AP. The new espresso drinks, called McCafe, are now being added to McDonald's locations across the U.S.