McDonald’s is the number one fast-food chain in the U.S. The Golden Arches has about 14,300 locations in America alone—Burger King, McDonald’s number two competitor, has about half that many locations in the U.S.

But McDonald’s might need to watch the throne, given that the chain plans to close more restaurants than it opens this year, according to the Associated Press. This is the first time that’s happened since 1970.


mcdonalds shock

The AP reported this startling statistic after reviewing all of the chain’s annual SEC filings. Although Ray Kroc spent a great deal of time expanding aggressively since founding McDonald’s in 1955, the wire service notes that no store count was available for 1969.


McDonald’s spokeswoman Becca Hary declined to give an exact number of store closings, but said that the impact would be “minimal.” In April, the company announced that it would close around 700 underperforming locations worldwide, but how many of those will be in the U.S. remains unclear.

This “Downsizing” Growth Strategy Has Worked Before

starbucks latte gif

In 2008, Starbucks closed 600 locations in the U.S. after current CEO Howard Schultz came back to be the captain of that latte ship. Fast-forward seven years later to January 2015, when Schultz told CNBC, “We’re coming off an extraordinary holiday, for which we prepared all year. It’s very unusual to have every business unit in every geography exceed expectations.”


McDonald’s plans to open 300 new restaurants in better locations this year. Mike Donahue, McDonald’s chief communication officer until 2006, says it simply appears that the company is “pruning the tree.”

One thing’s for sure: From McBrunch to the Hamburglar redesign to a kale rollout to serving toastier buns, it’s clear that Mickey D’s is pouring every single ounce of its energy into reversing course.


As Donahue also observed, “The only thing that stops growth is relevancy to the customer.” He may not be McD’s chief communication officer anymore, but that observation is still valid.

[via the AP]