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Yoshikami: Learning from McDonald's Master Plan

Tuesday, 11 Dec 2012 | 11:02 AM ET
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McDonald's posted better-than-expected sales results as dollar menu items drove higher store traffic. But the headlines do not tell the whole story regarding McDonald's long march towards increased global dominance in the restaurant business.

Here's the strategy they are pursuing.

McDonald's seeks to provide discounted items to drive store traffic but pivot consumers towards more appealing (and higher margin) items such as specialty menu burgers and salads.

Additionally, they are committed to sell more coffee drinks at a discounted price relative to Starbucks. Their shake and juice drinks seek to chip away share from Jamba Juice. This company as part of their master plan seeks to capture a greater share of wallet from consumers and to grab market share from competitors.

(Read More: 'Premature to Call a Complete Turn' for McDonald's: Pro )

Their global expansion strategy is focused on increasing business in China and other international markets. Menus are shaped by local preferences (ever have a rice burger in Asia?). The company realizes globalization is a massive opportunity and they are focused on capturing business; and building brand loyalty in emerging economies. Their international efforts are a core part of their business, not an afterthought.

There are lessons for investors to learn from McDonald's strategic and operational efforts.

(Read More: Here's One Way to 'Blow Up' the Fast Food Industry)

Here are 5 takeaways:

  1. Change and evolution is necessary in a rapidly morphing consumer environment. Sell what people want to buy.
  2. Innovation is required and one should not be afraid to price products at a premium if the differentiation is clear to consumers
  3. Never underestimate consumers desire for a sale. Use sales to build traffic.
  4. Global expansion matters as emerging market consumers become a bigger part of the global economy. International efforts should not be a secondary business.
  5. Keep it simple and avoid diluting brands with confusing offerings (Apple is also an expert in simplification of product lines)

In the end, smart strategic management requires assessing the environment and making tactical adjustments. It means not only meeting consumer needs but getting to consumer preferences first before the competition. McDonald's has shown the way for American corporations on how to effectively position and morph a brand based on changing consumer preferences.

The company has evolved.

Tactical adjustments in strategy that are measured, deliberate, yet innovative, are the hallmarks of a great leadership structure. Look for these types of management teams as you invest your portfolio. You'll increase your odds for success.

(Read More: No Sushi for You: Japan Airlines to Serve KFC Meals)

TV Programming Note: Mr. Yoshikami will be a guest on CNBC's "Power Lunch" all this week.

(Read More: Distrust Among Members of Congress Complicates 'Cliff' Talks)

Michael Yoshikami, Ph.D., CFP, is CEO, Founder and Chairman of the DWM Investment Committee at Destination Wealth Management. Michael is a CNBC Contributor and appears regularly on the network. DWM is a San Francisco Bay Area-based independent money management firm that provides fee-based wealth management services to institutions and individuals around the world. Michael was named by Barron's as one of the Top 100 Independent Financial Advisors for 2009, 2010 and 2011.

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