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McDonald's Will Be Making This Move For the First Time in Eight Years

Believe it or not, the chain has been shrinking in the U.S.

You may not have noticed this thanks to its vast nationwide footprint, but McDonald's has been shrinking for nearly a decade. The chain has been closing more locations than it has opened for the past eight years, according to Restaurant Business, and is currently operating the smallest number of U.S. locations in 20 years.

However, America's fast-food darling is finally ready to turn things around when it comes to restaurant volume. McDonald's Corp. CFO Kevin Ozan said in last week's earnings call that the company is planning to open new locations in U.S., which it hasn't done since 2014.

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While the exact number or the geographic distribution of new locations slated for 2022 remains unknown, Ozan said a combined total of more than 500 openings is expected in the U.S. and several major international markets.

or Kempczinski stated that McDonald's expects to open about 500 new restaurants in 2022, but there has been no word yet on their possible geographic distribution.

Currently, the chain operates just under 13,500 domestic locations, which makes it the third-largest chain after Subway and Starbucks. Globally, however, McDonald's is second only to Subway and has been steadily expanding to a whopping 40,000 restaurants.

The company has shed 239 restaurants last year, according to Restaurant Business, as part of its strategy to increase sales by location rather than the number of customers it serves. It has been closing unprofitable locations, including those it was operating inside Walmart stores—between 2012 and 2021, the number of these restaurants has gone from almost 900 to about 150.

Besides unit growth, which will bring the already widespread chain even closer within reach for millions of Americans, Kempczinski also discussed challenges the company is facing thanks to the renewed COVID-19 restrictions, pressure from a tight labor market, and the rising cost of goods.

Some of its restaurants are still operating without dining rooms and about 1% are affected by restricted hours due to understaffing. The shortage of workers can also be felt at the drive-thru, where wait times are getting longer. And to combat inflation, the chain expects to raise its prices even further than the 6% increase already implemented last year.

Mura Dominko
Mura is a Deputy Editor leading ETNT's coverage of America's favorite fast foods and restaurant chains. Read more