OAK BROOK, Ill., Jan. 25 (UPI) -- McDonald's executives said it is time to expand and to redecorate existing restaurants in the United States and elsewhere.
"We believe now is an opportune time to strategically increase new store openings while continuing a significant focus on re-imaging," McDonald's Chief Finance Officer Peter Bensen said, The Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday.
"We have the financial capacity and talent to invest when many others cannot," Bensen said.
McDonald's expects to open 1,300 restaurants in 2012 and remodel 2,400 others in 2012.
Renovations cost an average of $600,000 in the United States with the company paying up to 45 percent of a franchisee's remodeling costs.
McDonald's is aiming for a look that supports a variety of customers. The redone outlets will include tall counter seating with WiFi available for slow coffee sippers and large tables in the area designed for families.
In addition, there is a section designed for a patron determined to get in and out fast, the newspaper said.
Evidence shows remodeling has a substantial benefit for sales. It also matches McDonald's look better to the more upscale menu it has developed in recent years.
Relatively new on the menu are gourmet coffees, smoothies and Angus burgers.
Some stores are seeing double-digit sales increases after the remodeling, which industry analyst Darren Tristano at Technomic says is also an attempt to face the increasing competition with "fast-casual" restaurants head on.
"The evolution of the McDonald's brand is, I think, necessary because so many other fast-casual brands are growing up," said Tristano, referring to chains like Chipotle, Panera and Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
Restaurant owner-operator Lisa Essig near Kansas City said there was also an "emperor's new clothes" effect.
After a restaurant is remodeled, "Some customers have said even the food looks better," she said.