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Are the number of McDonalds stores still increasing? Company or franchise owned.

McDonald’s is freshening up its core classic burger range with softer buns, more Big Mac sauce, and “meltier” cheese, to make up what the company is calling its “best burgers ever”. The fast food giant is even bringing back the Hamburglar character, not seen since 2015, to promote the new improvements which will hit US menus in 2024.

Would you like a franchise with that?

While some of McDonald's overarching decisions are implemented at the top and must be followed across locations — like these new recipe changes — the McDonald’s model has allowed franchisees a certain degree of freedom ever since Ray Kroc laid down his “in business for yourself, not by yourself” approach in the 1950s. Indeed, many of the chain’s most famous offerings from the Egg McMuffin to the Big Mac were dreamed up by franchisees themselves.

That franchise-first model has enabled the golden arches to expand from a local California fast food joint, opened by two brothers in the 1940s, to one of the biggest brands in the world with 40,000+ locations. And it's a strategy the company has doubled down on in recent years. Indeed, throughout its aggressive international expansion in the 1990s, McDonald's operated ~20% of the restaurants. But ever since a restructuring in 2006, the parent company has taken a backseat — preferring to collect the steady franchise fees without operating each individual store.

These days, the company operates just 5% of the locations, presumably still enough for management to get a sense of what's going on, what menu changes to make (like "meltier" cheese) and how to position the overall brand.

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