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Visits slip, but higher prices help lift McDonald's US sales

This July 18, 2018, file photo shows a sign outside a McDonald's restaurant in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

OAK BROOK, Ill. (AP) -- Higher prices are helping McDonald's ring up more sales in the U.S., even though people are visiting less often.

McDonald's said Thursday that customers spent more on average per visit during the second quarter, partly because people also added more extras onto their orders. Still, executives said they need to get customers visits growing.

"We're not yet where we need to be," CEO Steve Easterbrook said during a call with analysts.

The decrease in visits to existing McDonald's in its flagship market came even though there were fewer stores than year ago. McDonald's has been shrinking its U.S. store base in recent years, and now has less than 14,000 domestic locations.

The results come as McDonald's fights to win back U.S. customers by modernizing operations, with changes like ordering kiosks and delivery. It's also making tweaks to its menu, such as by using fresh instead of frozen beef patties with select burgers.

To keep pace in a highly competitive fast-food market, McDonald's said it will roll out new offers to attract deal seekers.

For the quarter, McDonald's said sales rose 2.6 percent at domestic stores open at least 13 months. The metric is considered a key indicator because it strips out the effect of newly opened and closed locations.

McDonald's is facing challenges elsewhere too. The company is also seeing customer visits decline in China, something it said could be partly blamed on trade discussions affecting customer sentiment.

But overall, the company fared better overseas with global sales up 4 percent at comparable stores. Its worldwide store count also continues to climb; the chain now has more than 37,400 locations.

For the period ended June 30, McDonald's earned $1.5 billion, or $1.90 per share. Earnings, adjusted for restructuring costs, were $1.99 per share, or 7 cents better than Wall Street was expecting, according to a survey by Zacks Investment Research.

Total revenue of $5.35 billion in the period also edged out forecasts.

Shares of McDonald's Corp. slipped 2 percent to $155.60 in Thursday trading.

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