(USA TODAY) -- Does Ronald McDonald have ketchup on his sleeve -- or is that blood?
It's probably ketchup. But in an uncertain global environment, that could quickly change for the suddenly struggling fast-food giant.
McDonald's (MCD) CEO Don Thompson on Thursday announced the chain plans to replace its chief of U.S. operations, Jan Fields, with Jeff Stratton, who has been it's global chief restaurant officer. Last week ago, McDonald's announced its first monthly sales decline in nearly a decade.
For all the drama at McDonald's, it's faced far rougher times. But the current turmoil could ultimately lead to performance-enhancing changes, such as pushing new products, new meal occasions and acting a bit less fast-food-ish and a bit more like Panera or Chipotle.
That, at least is the opinion of four consultants and brand gurus asked to detail the things McDonald's needs to do to right its course. Their to-do list for McDonald's:
- Fix dinner. Dinner is where McDonald's struggles most, says Ron Paul, president of research firm Technomic. But it could make dinner far more inviting, he suggests, with a dish that isn't just another sandwich, such as a more upscale chopped steak platter. Add baked potatoes at dinner, he says, and folks have more choices than large or small fries.
- Serve breakfast all day.Scott Hume, editor of BurgerBusiness.com, says such a strategy would "bring back customers who come for McMuffins, but not burgers."
- Roll out monthly specials. Limited-time-only products, such as McRibs, are huge, says Paul. McDonald's should have a new one every month to keep folks returning.
- Sell sausage. Put a $1 bratwurst -- not a hot dog -- on the menu, and it will attract value-conscious consumers, says Hume.
- Out-customize everyone. Consumers want to make all the calls these days, so McDonald's could take the lead by embracing customization in every way -- and touting it even louder than Burger King, says brand consultant Peter Madden.
- Stop price creep. Food got too expensive at McDonald's. It needs to "reinvigorate" the $1 price point "to reconnect with price-conscious consumers," says Christopher Muller, dean of Boston University's School of Hospitality Administration.
- Consider home delivery. Burger King is testing home delivery, and McDonald's should, too, say Paul.
- Lure Millennials. Much like the Republican party, McDonald's must appeal more to women, minorities and Millennials, says Muller.