Since its birth in the early 1950s the company has opened restaurants in 110 countries, changing eating habits of generations of children. It is opening new branches at exotic locations every three hours; however these days McDonald's is not seeing that successful streak as it once did. The company has reported a decline in sales at a time when the US economy is lagging and its main rivals, Burger King and Wendy's, are showing solid, steady growth grabbing market share from the world's biggest fast-food chain. Shares fell to $12.38 in April on the New York Stock Exchange - their lowest closing price since July 1993. .
This decline was a result of the remodeling of more than half its 13,099 U.S. restaurants, which cost the company as much as $800 million. Jack M. Greenberg, CEO of McDonald's, rolled out a national "dollar value menu" and new innovative plans including a sit-down diner, a three-in-one outlet offering burgers and fries along with Boston Market chicken and Donatos pizza (both of which McDonald's owns), and small snack bars with limited menus inside a Home Depot or a Wal-Mart. After the dollar menu proved to actually undercut sales of McDonalds' other premium sandwiches and this new expansion has cost the company millions of dollars forcing them to layoff many workers, the company realized that it's time to cut back, not expand. McDonald's spent $1.23 billion building new restaurants in 1999, down about 10% from $1.36 billion in 1998 and about 19% from $1.53 billion in 1997. .
Among other missteps by McDonald's has been its made-to-order cooking system, which the company required of all U.S. restaurants to install two years ago in an effort to improve the taste of its burgers and better compete with rivals. Competitor Wendy's boast that their hamburgers are made from fresh rather than frozen beef and Burger King's long time motto "have it your way" allows customers to pick and choose the toppings for their burger .