SWOT Analysis of McDonald’s (5 Key Strengths in 2021)

This McDonald’s SWOT analysis reveals how the most successful fast-food chain company of all time uses its competitive advantages to continue dominating fast-food industry.

It identifies all the key strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that affect the company the most. If you want to find out more about the SWOT of McDonald’s, you’re in the right place.

For more information on how to do a SWOT analysis please refer to our article.

Keep reading.

Company Background

NameMcDonald’s Corporation
FoundedMay 15, 1940
LogoMcDonalds swot analysis logo
Industries servedRestaurants
Geographic areas servedWorldwide (37,241 restaurants in 120 countries)
HeadquartersOak Brook, Illinois, United States
Current CEOStephen J. Easterbrook
Revenue (US$)22.820 billion (2017) 7.3% decrease over 24.622 billion (2016)
Profit (US$)5.192 billion (2017) 10.8% increase 4.687 billion (2016)
Employees235,000 (2018)
Main CompetitorsBurger King Worldwide, Inc., Darden Restaurants, Inc., Doctor’s Associates, Inc. (Subway), Domino’s, Inc., Dunkin’ Brands Group, Inc., Yum! Brands, Inc. (KFC), Starbucks Corporation, Wendy’s Company and many other restaurant chains.

McDonald’s Corporation’s business overview from the company’s financial report:


The Company operates and franchises McDonald’s restaurants, which serve a locally-relevant menu of quality food and beverages sold at various price points in more than 100 countries. McDonald’s global system is comprised of both Company-owned and franchised restaurants.

McDonald’s franchised restaurants are owned and operated under one of the following structures – conventional franchise, developmental license or affiliate. The business relationship between McDonald’s and its independent franchisees is of fundamental importance to overall performance and to the McDonald’s Brand.

This business relationship is supported by an agreement that requires adherence to standards and policies essential to protecting our brand.

The Company is primarily a franchisor, with more than 90% of McDonald’s restaurants currently owned and operated by independent franchisees.

Franchising enables an individual to be their own employer and maintain control over all employment related matters, marketing and pricing decisions, while also benefiting from the strength of McDonald’s global brand, operating system and financial resources.

The Company’s typical franchise term is 20 years. The Company requires franchisees to meet rigorous standards and generally does not work with passive investors. The business relationship with franchisees is designed to ensure consistency and high quality at all McDonald’s restaurants.

Conventional franchisees contribute to the Company’s revenue through the payment of rent and royalties based upon a percent of sales, with specified minimum rent payments, along with initial fees paid upon the opening of a new restaurant or grant of a new franchise.


McDonald’s restaurants offer a substantially uniform menu, although there are geographic variations to suit local consumer preferences and tastes. In addition, McDonald’s tests new products on an ongoing basis.

McDonald’s menu includes hamburgers and cheeseburgers, chicken sandwiches, wraps, french fries, salads, oatmeal, shakes, desserts, sundaes, soft serve cones, pies, soft drinks, coffee and other beverages. In addition, the restaurants sell a variety of other products during limited-time promotions.

McDonald’s restaurants in the U.S. and many international markets offer a full or limited breakfast menu. Breakfast offerings may include Egg McMuffin, Sausage McMuffin with Egg, McGriddles, biscuit and bagel sandwiches and hotcakes.

Quality, choice and nutrition are increasingly important to our customers and we are continuously evolving our menu to meet our customers’ needs.”[1]

You can find more information about the business in McDonald’s official website or Wikipedia’s article.

McDonald’s SWOT analysis


1. The second-largest restaurant network serving customers in over 120 countries

As of 2018, McDonald’s operates the second-largest restaurant network in the world. In total, the company and its franchisees operate 37,241 restaurants in 120 countries.

Figure 1. Largest quick service restaurant (QSR) chains by number of locations in 2018

RankBrand NameLocations

Source: The respective Companies’ financial reports and official websites [1][2][3][4][5]

In terms of sales, McDonald’s outrivals any other QSR chain in the world with US$22.820 billion in sales in 2017 alone (earning slightly more than Starbucks). The sheer size of the company’s restaurant network is a strength that provides many advantages over competitors, including:

  • Economies of scale. The company can share its fixed costs over many restaurants locations, which makes McDonald’s one of the cheapest places to eat at.
  • Huge gains from implementing best practices. The company can identify better ways of performing tasks, managing restaurants or hiring new employees and can achieve huge gains by implementing these best practices in its vast network of restaurants.
  • Market power over suppliers and competitors. Due to its size, McDonald’s can exercise its market power over suppliers by requiring lower prices from them. The company clearly demonstrates this with The Coca Cola Company. Because of McDonald’s and The Coca Cola Company’s agreement, no other restaurant chain can sell Coca Cola drinks for lower prices than McDonald’s, even if it means losing the business to PepsiCo. The Coca Cola Company could easily get out of such agreement if McDonald’s wouldn’t be so huge and would generate less income for The Coca Cola Company. McDonald’s can also use its size to affect the competition by underpricing some of its items or driving them out of the best locations.
  • Wide audience reach. McDonald’s restaurant network allows the chain to reach more customers than most of its rivals could reach. According to the Company’s CEO[6], in five of its largest markets, 75% of population lives within 3 miles of McDonald’s restaurants. Wide audience reach does not only help the company to target more customers and increase brand awareness, but also to introduce new services, such as home delivery.

2. The most recognizable brand in restaurant industry

McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in 1940.[7] Since then, the company has become the world’s largest restaurant chain in terms of revenue with the most recognizable brand in the market.

According to Forbes[8] and Interbrand[9], McDonald’s brand is 9th and 12th most valuable brand in the world, worth US$40.3 billion and US$41.533 billion, respectively. No other restaurant brand, except Starbucks, is included in the list of the top 50 most valuable brands.

The brand value is closely related to the brand recognition and reputation. Usually, the more valuable a brand is the better it is recognized worldwide. McDonald’s, which operates in 120 countries, where billions of people live, enjoys some of the greatest brand awareness among all global corporations.

Only KFC operates in more countries (131)[4] than McDonald’s and can compare in brand awareness with it. Brand awareness also helps to introduce new products or sell the current ones faster as the company needs to spend less money on advertising.

While, McDonald’s reputation has suffered a lot during the years, the company is still recognized for its innovations in fast-food industry and the American business values it brings to other countries.

Figure 2. McDonald’s brand value 2000-2017

McDonald's brand value increased from US$27.9 billion in 2000 to US$41.5 billion in 2017.

Source: Interbrand [9][10][11][12][13]

Few direct competitors have such a valuable and recognizable brand, which strengthens the company.

Access the full analysis… more McDonald’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

Published: January 10, 2021
Format: PDF + PowerPoint
Pages: 26
Words: 5,100
Charts/tables: 9

Price: US$19 US$9.99


What you get

PDF analysis
PowerPoint presentation
Thorough insight into the business
Visualization of data
Comparison against rivals

Table of contents

  • Company Overview
  • SWOT Analysis
  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats
  • Summary
  • Sources

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Best source We’re the No.1 source for both free and paid SWOT analyses on the web.
Well researched All the information is supported with data from the most trusted sources.
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  1. McDonald’s Corporation (2018). Form 10-K for the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2017. Available at: http://corporate.mcdonalds.com/content/corpmcd/investors-relations/financial-information/sec-filings.html Accessed January 10, 2019
  2. Subway (2018). Explore Our World. Available at: http://www.subway.com/en-us/exploreourworld Accessed January 10, 2019
  3. Starbucks Corporation (2017). Form 10-K for the Fiscal Year Ended October 1, 2017. Available at: https://s22.q4cdn.com/869488222/files/doc_financials/annual/2017/01/FY17-Starbucks-Form-10-K.pdf Accessed January 10, 2019
  4. Yum! Brands (2018). Form 10-K for the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2017. Available at: http://www.yum.com/app/uploads/Yum-Brands-Inc-2017-10-K.pdf Accessed January 10, 2019
  5. Restaurant Brands International Limited Partnership (2017). Form 10-K for the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2017. Available at: http://www.rbi.com/Cache/1001232614.PDF?O=PDF&T=&Y=&D=&FID=1001232614&iid=4591210 Accessed January 10, 2019
  6. McDonald’s (2017). McDonald’s McDelivery Expands to 4,200 Restaurants in 13 Countries with UberEATS. Available at: http://news.mcdonalds.com/news-releases/news-release-details/mcdonalds-mcdelivery-expands-4200-restaurants-13-countries Accessed January 10, 2019
  7. McDonald’s Corporation (2018). McDonald’s history. Available at: http://corporate.mcdonalds.com/mcd/our_company/mcdonalds-history.html Accessed January 10, 2019
  8. Forbes (2018). The World’s Most Valuable Brands. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/powerful-brands/list Accessed January 10, 2019
  9. Interbrand (2018). Best Global Brands 2017. Available at: http://interbrand.com/best-brands/best-global-brands/2017/ranking/ Accessed January 10, 2019
  10. Interbrand (2001). Best Global Brands 2000. Available at: http://interbrand.com/best-brands/best-global-brands/2000/ranking/ Accessed January 10, 2019
  11. Interbrand (2006). Best Global Brands 2005. Available at: http://interbrand.com/best-brands/best-global-brands/2005/ranking/ Accessed January 10, 2019
  12. Interbrand (2011). Best Global Brands 2010. Available at: http://interbrand.com/best-brands/best-global-brands/2010/ranking/ Accessed January 10, 2019
  13. Interbrand (2016). Best Global Brands 2015. Available at: http://interbrand.com/best-brands/best-global-brands/2015/ranking/ Accessed January 10, 2019
  14. QSR (2017). McDonald’s Unveils its Plan for the Future. Available at: https://www.qsrmagazine.com/news/mcdonalds-unveils-its-plan-future Accessed January 10, 2019
  15. Taylor, K. (2018). McDonald’s Dollar Menu is back — here’s what’s on it. Available at: http://www.businessinsider.com/mcdonalds-new-1-2-3-dollar-menu-2018-1 Accessed January 10, 2019
  16. Myers, D. (2016). What Was On McDonald’s Original Menu? Available at: https://www.thedailymeal.com/eat/what-was-mcdonalds-original-menu Accessed January 10, 2019
  17. McDonald’s (2018). Full Menu. Available at: https://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en-us/full-menu.html Accessed January 10, 2019
  18. QSR (2011). 2011 Drive-Thru Study: Average Service Time. Available at: https://www.qsrmagazine.com/content/2011-drive-thru-study-average-service-time?sort=avg_seconds&dir=asc Accessed January 10, 2019
  19. QSR (2012). 2012 QSR Drive-Thru Study: Average Service Time. Available at: https://www.qsrmagazine.com/content/2012-qsr-drive-thru-study-average-service-time Accessed January 10, 2019
  20. QSR (2014). The Drive-Thru Performance Study: Average Service Time. Available at: https://www.qsrmagazine.com/content/drive-thru-performance-study-average-service-time Accessed January 10, 2019
  21. QSR (2017). Speed of Service. Available at: https://www.qsrmagazine.com/content/drive-thru-2017-speed-service Accessed January 10, 2019
  22. Consumer Reports (2017). Fast-food restaurant ratings. Available at: http://www.consumerreports.org/products/fast-food-restaurant/ratings-overview/ Accessed January 10, 2019
  23. Calderone, J. (2017). More Chain Restaurants Move to Limit Antibiotics in Meat Production. Available at: https://www.consumerreports.org/overuse-of-antibiotics/more-fast-food-chains-have-no-antibiotic-meat-on-the-menu/ Accessed January 10, 2019
  24. The New York Times (1993). Company News. McDonalds’s Is Trying Out Home Delivery in Virginia. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/1993/11/24/business/company-news-mcdonald-s-is-trying-out-home-delivery-in-virginia.html Accessed January 10, 2019
  25. Peterson, H. (2016). McDonald’s will now deliver food to your door — but there’s a catch. Available at: http://www.businessinsider.com/mcdonalds-launches-delivery-test-2016-12 Accessed January 10, 2019
  26. Alsin, A. (2017). McDonald’s: Burgers, Fries And Stock Buybacks. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/aalsin/2017/04/27/mcdonalds-burgers-fries-and-stock-buybacks/#48b1fc434626 Accessed January 10, 2019
  27. Gallup (2017). Can McDonald’s Win in $100 Billion Food Delivery Market? Available at: http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/210026/mcdonald-win-100-billion-food-delivery-market.aspx Accessed January 10, 2019
  28. McDonald’s (2018). McDonald’s Systemwide Restaurants. Available at: http://corporate.mcdonalds.com/content/dam/gwscorp/investor-relations-content/supplemental-information/Store%20Counts%20by%20Country%202017.pdf Accessed January 10, 2019
  29. Business Insider (2017). McDonalds joins the mobile order-ahead craze. Available at: http://www.businessinsider.com/mcdonalds-joins-the-mobile-order-ahead-craze-2017-3 Accessed January 10, 2019
  30. Pascual, K. (2017). Did Anyone Notice McDonald’s Ditching Artificial Ingredients in Its Ice Cream Treats? Available at: http://www.techtimes.com/articles/207687/20170519/did-anyone-notice-mcdonald-s-ditching-artificial-ingredients-in-its-ice-cream-treats.htm Accessed January 10, 2019
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  32. Iskyan, K. (2017). These industries will explode along with China’s middle class. Available at: http://www.businessinsider.com/industries-will-explode-with-chinese-middle-class-2017-6 Accessed January 10, 2019
  33. McDonald’s (2018). McDonald’s Announces Growth Plan for China Following Completion of Strategic Partnership with CITIC and Carlyle. Available at: http://news.mcdonalds.com/news-releases/news-release-details/mcdonalds-announces-growth-plan-china-following-completion-0 Accessed January 10, 2019
  34. IBIS World (2017). Fast Food Restaurants in the US: Market Research Report. Available at: https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-trends/market-research-reports/accommodation-food-services/fast-food-restaurants.html Accessed January 10, 2019
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  36. Black Box Intelligence (2017). Restaurant Industry Snapshot. Available at: http://tdn2k.com/snapshot Accessed January 10, 2019

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