McDonald’s USA has confirmed that chief marketing officer Neil Golden is leaving the brand, signaling another high-profile departure from the quick-service chain in the past 18 months.

Golden had been chief marketing officer for McDonald’s USA since April 2008 and is set to retire early next year. McDonald’s did not provide any indication about the search for Golden’s successor.

In a statement emailed to Nation’s Restaurant News, McDonald’s USA chief brand and strategy officer Kevin Newell thanked Golden for his 24 years of service to the company.


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“Over the course of his tenure … [Golden] has been responsible for leading, developing and executing fully integrated marketing plans to drive the business and the brand,” Newell said. “Highlights include introducing and growing the McCafe line of specialty beverages, expanding the highly successful Dollar Menu, and enhancing our Happy Meals so that there’s a serving of fruit and contribution to Ronald McDonald House Charities with every Happy Meal.

“Looking ahead,” Newell continued, “we remain confident in the future and direction of our business and our brand. We are aligned on strategies that will take our success to the next level and advance us toward our vision of becoming our customers’ favorite place and way to eat and drink.”

The C-suites at McDonald’s USA and parent company McDonald’s Corp. have been in flux since March 2012, when former chief executive Jim Skinner announced his retirement, which led to president Don Thompson replacing him the following July.

In November 2012, a week after the company announced its first monthly same-store sales decline in years, McDonald’s USA president Jan Fields resigned and was replaced with Jeff Stratton.

The brand had an inconsistent winter earlier this year, with monthly same-store sales in the United States fluctuating between slightly negative and slightly positive. During that time, Newell, who had been global chief brand officer, returned to the company’s Oak Brook, Ill.-based headquarters to be the U.S. brand and strategy officer in February, and Steve Easterbrook was named as his replacement in April as global chief brand officer.

In the United States, monthly same-store sales have been positive since April, when they ticked up 0.7 percent. During the past several months, the brand has rolled out several new menu items like the Egg White Delight McMuffin, Premium McWraps, new varieties of Quarter Pounders, and the current limited-time offer of Mighty Wings.

The company also has been testing an expanded “Dollar Menu & More” tiered value menu. In five test markets, the new value menu features three price points of $1, $2 and $5, as well as new sandwiches like double-patty versions of Dollar Menu sandwiches like the Grilled Onion Cheddar burger, or new flavors of the McDouble and McChicken sandwiches.

As McDonald’s has tried to innovate around value, longstanding franchisee concerns over owner-operator cash flow have been made public. But for the past several quarters, chain leaders have indicated that the strategy of increasing the pace of new-product rollouts while simultaneously advertising value platforms like the Dollar Menu would remain in place as continued volatility in the informal-eating-out market put a premium on market-share gains.

McDonald’s operates or franchises more than 34,000 restaurants around the world, including more than 14,000 locations in the United States.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN