As people have become more conscious about what they eat, they have stopped bombarding McDonald’s, the world’s No. 1 fast food chain—and apparently CEO Don Thompson did not do enough to stop the steady decline.
So the long-time employee of the company who worked his way up to the top will step down in March as the chain struggles to regain hold of a market it once dominated.
Thompson, who has worked at McDonald’s for nearly 25 years, was one of a few Black Fortune 500 CEOs.
“It’s tough to say goodbye to the McFamily, but there is a time and season for everything,” Thompson said in a McDonald’s statement announcing his departure.
In his three years atop McDonald’s, Thompson, 51, saw a dramatic change in how America eats and where it goes for its quick meals. Obesity remains a problem in the country, but outlets like Five Guys, Panera Bread and Chipotle have dented McDonald’s former dominance.
Thompson’s reign was highlighted by struggles, especially in the United States. Sales at U.S. stores open a year—an important metric for a restaurant chain’s health—stayed flat or declined for 13 consecutive months until December, when they rose just 0.4 percent.
McDonald’s stock is down 14.5 percent from its highest point in the past year and was down 3.4 percent for 2014, while broader markets rose in double digits.
Last week, McDonald’s posted terrible fourth-quarter results, with a 21 percent drop in earnings and declines in store traffic of 3.6 percent globally and 4.1 percent in the U.S.
“Things just couldn’t go on like this forever,” Christopher Muller, professor of hospitality at Boston University, told USA Today. “The students in my classes don’t even think of going to McDonald’s. They’ve been taught not to go there since they were kids.”
Thompson tried to lure customers back by pushing a campaign focusing on quality ingredients and customized burgers with rather unMcDonald’s-like pepper jack cheese and guacamole. It did not work.
On top of that, protests continue concerning low wages for employees, which certainly doesn’t help the chain’s PR.