If McDonald's incoming CEO wants to turn around the company's stagnant U.S. business, he must deal with its "total brand confusion," Yale management professor Jeff Sonnenfeld told CNBC on Thursday.
"The quality of the food, the price confusion—are they going to be the place where you go for value meals or dollar meals or are they trying to upgrade it?" Sonnenfeld said in a "Squawk Box" interview.
Chief Executive Don Thompson will retire at age 51 on March 1, and Steve Easterbrook, the restaurant chain's senior vice president and chief brand officer, will take the company's top position, McDonald's said Wednesday.
Shares of McDonald's were up 3 percent in premarket trading Thursday.
Sonnenfeld said Easterbrook is a "fantastic choice" to head McDonald's because he turned around the chain's Europe business and reshaped its brand image in the U.K.
As a proven implementer and a leader with ideas, Easterbrook "can make a big difference," he said.
Easterbrook joined McDonald's in his native Britain in 1993. He became president of McDonald's Europe and led the chain's "efforts to elevate its marketing, advance menu innovation and create an infrastructure for its digital initiatives," McDonald's said in a release.
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Sonnenfeld noted that McDonald's has gone through five CEOs since 1999, two of whom the company lost to sudden death. "They really haven't had the plan they had in mind roll out, but at least they've had the bench strength," he said.
McDonald's franchisees are optimistic about Easterbrook, RJ Hottovy, Morningstar's global director of consumer equity research, told CNBC. They feel that the chief brand executive has had good ideas, such as focusing on advanced metrics like customer engagement, that have not been acted upon.