McDonald's hits recession hurdle

Olympic sponsor McDonald's clattered into the hurdles yesterday as the fast-food behemoth reported its worst sales in nine years during July.

The chain, whose Olympic Park outlet is the world's biggest and serves 1,200 customers an hour, saw flat sales over the month as squeezed consumers cut back on Big Macs and fries despite a huge promotional push.

The disappointment marks the first time since April 2003 that the company has failed to lift like-for-like sales.

McDonald's felt the brunt of debt woes in Europe as sales in the region sank 0.6 per cent. Flagging markets in Germany, as well as beleaguered southern European states like Spain and Italy, more than offset stronger sales in the UK. In the US, which accounts for nearly a third of the group's $27bn (£17.3bn) revenues, sales edged 0.1 per cent lower.

"We've grown used to seeing McDonald's weather bad economies, so this is a bit of a surprise," RBC Capital analyst Larry Miller said. The chain serves 69 million customers in 119 countries every day. The shares fell more than 2 per cent.