100 million Britons a month flock to McDonald's as downturn bites

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The Independent Online

The credit crunch is driving record numbers of customers from across the social spectrum to buy meals under the golden arches of McDonald's.

The fast-food giant is serving more than 100 million customers a month at its 1,200 restaurants in Britain, it revealed yesterday. That is about 12 million more than its previous record last December, which is typically its busiest month. Steve Easterbrook, the company's UK chief executive, said: "It is the tenth consecutive quarter of growth in the UK. We have real momentum in the business."

McDonald's UK delivered like-for-like sales growth, taken from restaurants open for 12 months or more, of more than 8 per cent for the three months to 30 September. Mr Easterbrook declined to provide a specific sales figure for McDonald's UK, but said it was above the 8.2 per cent underlying growth at the American company's European division. He said the sales figures were a further testament to the changes McDonald's had made over the past few years, with improvements to its menu, extended opening hours and new restaurant formats.

It also illustrated that companies perceived to offer value for money were attracting more middle-class customers, he added. Mr Easterbrook said: "Those people who are coming back to McDonald's, and who have not been there for a while, are finding a whole new McDonald's."

Discount retailers, such as Aldi and Poundland, are also profiting as hard-pressed customers seek out bargains. Mr Easterbrook said: "We have always had a very broad appeal and we are picking up more people across the board, but some people are trading down. A family of four can come in and have a meal for £15.

"We are seeing growth across the menu from the Extra Value Meals to our Rainforest Alliance coffee and premium burgers."

McDonald's is also reaping the rewards of extending the opening times of its restaurants. Some open at 5am and 200 British branches trade for more than 24 hours at weekends.

Mr Easterbrook said early opening was having a positive effect because if had increased the numbers of people coming into its stores throughout the morning. Sales of its coffee were up by more than 20 per cent, he added.

Globally, McDonald's operating income rose by 20 per cent over the three months to 30 September to $1,823.7m, and its total worldwide sales increased by 7.1 per cent.