McDonald's announced Thursday morning that veteran U.S. president Jan Fields will be replaced.
Fields, who has been with the Oak Brook-based foodservice retailer for more than 35 years, will be replaced by Jeff Stratton, global chief restaurant officer.
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The movement comes just a week after the company reported its first monthly decline in global resaurant sales in nine years. The chain cited lower demand and greater competition for the lower sales.
Fields, 57, will leave her position Dec. 1, according to a company news release.
Under her leadership, the hamburger giant "made significant nutrition advancements by revamping the Happy Meal last year to include apple slices and smaller, kid-size French Fries; and in September, by voluntarily posting nutrition information on menu boards," the statement said.
"Jan has had an outstanding career at McDonald's. She's looking forward to spending time with her family and friends," company spokesman Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem told the Daily Herald.
"We appreciate and salute Jan for her more than three decades of inspiration leadership and impactful service under the Arches," said McDonald's President and CEO Don Thompson, said in the statement.
After years of outperforming its rivals, McDonald's has struggled recently amid intensifying competition at home and a persistently weak economy abroad. In October, the company reported its first monthly sales decline since March 2003. In a recent conference call with analysts, Thompson said the fast-food company would return its focus on its Dollar Menu after efforts to shift customers to a slightly more expensive "Extra Value Menu" fell flat.
That emphasis on value is in contrast to rivals such as Wendy's and Burger King, which have been introducing more premium offerings. Taco Bell, known for its affordable Mexican-style fare, also introduced its higher-end Cantina Bell bowls earlier this year. The moves are widely seen as a reaction to the growing popularity of chains such as Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread Co., which offer better quality food for slightly higher prices.
The U.S. accounts for about a third of McDonald's total revenue, while Europe accounts for about 40 percent; the region encompassing Asia, the Middle East and Africa account for 22 percent. Thompson, who took over as CEO this summer, has also served as president of McDonald's U.S.A.
McDonald's says Fields was behind major menu innovations, including the expansion of the specialty drinks menu that include fruit-flavored "chillers" and gourmet coffees. The lineup is popular and was credited for helping boost sales in recent years.
As global chief restaurant officer, Stratton oversees operations, training and innovation. He also started as a crew member more than 40 years ago in Detroit, and previously served as chief restaurant officer. Sa Shekhem said the transition to president of McDonald's U.S.A, which is a promotion, should be seamless.
"A change in management doesn't signal a change in strategy," she said.
McDonald's has more than 34,000 locations around the world, with about 14,000 in the U.S.
Associated Press contributed to this report.