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McDonald’s posts Q1 earnings beat

McDonald's is back, and apparently all it took was a few extra Egg McMuffins.

The company announced better-than-expected earnings Friday, driven by the runaway success of the new all-day breakfast platform.

The company reported first-quarter earnings of $1.23 per share on $5.90 billion in revenue.

"I'm pleased to report that our turnaround is taking hold," CEO Steve Easterbrook said.

Its stock price was flat Friday.(Click here for the latest price.)

Analysts had expected McDonald's to report earnings of about $1.16 a share on $5.83 billion in revenue, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters.

A McDonald's restaurant in Dallas.
Scott Mlyn | CNBC
A McDonald's restaurant in Dallas.

McDonald's introduced all-day breakfast at its U.S. restaurants in October in a bid to attract more diners in the face of growing competition from rivals such as Chipotle Mexican Grill and Shake Shack. The move boosted sales last quarter and appears to be a factor in the Golden Arches' earnings beat.

"Breakfast all day is a platform for them, not just a promotion, and it's driving good traffic growth, it's driving some good check growth. I think it's going to continue," Peter Saleh, restaurant analyst at BTIG, told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

Much of the benefit is now built into the stock, with shares trading at 13 times forward earnings, but with fundamentals improving, growth should not stall any time soon, he said.

First quarter comparison sales for McDonald's rose 5.4 percent, fueled by the company's latest value deal, the McPick 2, in addition to the all-day breakfast, the burger giant said.

During the quarter, McDonald's offered two of its premium products, including the Big Mac, for $5.

RBC Capital Markets analyst David Palmer on Friday credited McDonald's for shaking up the McPick 2 promo to move more premium products. The company switched to the five-for-$2 model featuring premium products like the Big Mac and McNuggets, abandoning an earlier two-for-$2 promotion that offered nonpremium items like McDoubles and mozzarella sticks.

The next step is to improve the core menu, Palmer said. "They have a long way to go in terms of just improving their quality perception. Their quality is viewed by consumers to be at the bottom rung," he told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street."

The Golden Arches also saw more than 6 percent growth in global comp sales, noting that Leap Day factored into the increased sales.

McDonald's isn't the only brand to benefit from the extra day this quarter. Rival Yum Brands, which posted earnings on Wednesday, said that it garnered an additional $6 million in operating profit because of the leap year.

While all-day breakfast was enough to boost the Golden Arches' same-store-sales growth last quarter, analysts forecast that many fast food chains will see mixed earnings in the second quarter.

Some analysts attributed lighter foot traffic in March to an early Easter and unfavorable weather, while others blame downbeat economic talk by presidential candidates.

"It's going to be choppy," said Jefferies analyst Andy Barish. "Just like the market, it's been up and down sales-wise, with the quarter ending a little bit softer in March."

The latest Knapp-Track index for the casual dining sector revealed that year-over-year same-store sales fell 2.1 percent for the month of March. The data showed a 3.6 percent decline in guests. Knapp data are widely watched in the restaurant industry and seen as sometimes predicting how restaurant same-store sales are trending.

"There's scary stuff being said (this election cycle) so that puts a damper on things," said Malcolm Knapp, the New York-based consultant who created the Knapp-Track index. "People are really uncertain of what's going to happen — and they're going to hunker down, they're going to save, they're going to spend very selectively."