McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD ) is one of the greatest success stories in American business, growing from a single burger stand in 1940 to over 35,000 locations worldwide today. For better or worse, it is as bright a symbol as any other of American capitalism and culture around the world.
Now, the company finds itself in trouble both at home and abroad as shifting consumer tastes, brand fatigue, and food safety concerns have sunk sales. The company in April noted it would be closing 700 restaurants around the world this year. Even more surprising, The Associated Press reports that 2015 will be the first time that the company’s U.S. store count will have shrunk in a single year since at least 1970, which is when McDonald’s started putting a U.S. store count in its annual report filed with the SEC.
This is not the first time the company has faced challenges. In the early 2000s, the stock price tumbled as the company’s image was tarnished by negative media attention like the books Fast Food Nation and the documentary Supersize Me, but a turnaround plan led by then-new CEO Jim Skinner helped revive the brand by focusing on its core offerings.