Have We Reached Peak Burger?

You’ve heard of “Peak Oil,” right? Where the amount of oil we can pump out of the earth has peaked and is in decline? Well now there is “Peak Burger” in America, where the number of fast food outlets is in serious decline, reports Business Week:

For most of its history, the fast-food business in the U.S. has been characterized by rapid and dependable growth. From founder Ray Kroc’s first restaurant in Des Plaines, Ill., in 1955, McDonald’s (MCD) became a chain of more than 700 stores in the U.S. within 10 years. By 1983 there were 6,000, and for the next two decades the company opened about 360 U.S. outlets every year on average. Smaller rivals Burger King Worldwide (BKW) and Wendy’s (WEN) had impressive early growth stories of their own.

Obesity and Fast Food Restaurants 7.0.svg
Obesity and Fast Food Restaurants 7.0” by LukeB4uleapOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

In recent years, however, the companies that made Big Macs and Whoppers into icons of American pop culture have seen robust domestic expansion disappear from their menus. Sales at restaurants open for at least 13 months slipped 0.2 percent last year in the U.S. at McDonald’s and 0.9 percent at Burger King for the U.S. and Canada. Even including newly opened locations, which experience rapid growth rates in their early months, sales at the major fast-food chains grew only 1.1 percent last year, compared with 4 percent in 2012, according to Euromonitor International.

Slower sales growth has many industry watchers forecasting the once unthinkable: the peaking of burger joint growth in the U.S. “Traditional fast food—McDonald’s, Sonic (SONC), Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell—are fairly well-saturated in this country with not a lot more room left for growth,” says Peter Saleh, senior research analyst at brokerage Telsey Advisory Group…

..In 2013, McDonald’s added only 121 stores in the U.S. (after subtracting the number of U.S. stores that were closed during the year). So to boost revenue, it needs to sell more food at each location. That’s not happening—U.S. same-store sales have slid or been unchanged for nine straight months—and it’s getting harder to increase sales as consumer habits change and the competition ramps up.

McDonald’s and its big rivals have tried to adapt by adding more healthful options—chicken sandwiches, salads—to the menu. But because they built their business selling burgers and fries, the traditional chains mostly attract people who like burgers and fries.

Diners who say they prefer to eat healthier aren’t choosing McDonald’s over relative newcomers such as Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG)…

[continues at Business Week]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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7 Comments on "Have We Reached Peak Burger?"

  1. Anarchy Pony | Sep 5, 2014 at 11:44 am |

    Technically speaking peak oil is the point at which production can no longer be increased to match the constantly rising demand.

  2. mannyfurious | Sep 5, 2014 at 12:13 pm |

    That’s the problem with capitalism. All of these companies still makes tons of money, but “growth” has slowed. How is that model responsible or desirable? How is it resilient in the least?

    • Anarchy Pony | Sep 5, 2014 at 12:40 pm |

      Well when you’re a braindead cornucopian you just assume magical technology will always pop in and solve your problems.

  3. BuzzCoastin | Sep 5, 2014 at 12:21 pm |

    the question is
    have we reached the tipping point
    towards gmo based cyborg chow for the masses?

  4. Oginikwe | Sep 5, 2014 at 1:36 pm |

    Maybe put grassfed beef on the menu and use safflower oil for the fries, then maybe.

  5. emperorreagan | Sep 5, 2014 at 2:08 pm |

    If only people would start eating burgers for every meal…wait, that’s already part of Burger King’s strategy.

  6. trompe l'oiel | Sep 5, 2014 at 3:32 pm |

    Hail Fatlantis!!

Comments are closed.