Call it Great Expectations.
McDonald’s Corp.’s incoming CEO, Don Thompson, has one overarching task: boosting worldwide sales month after month as his predecessor Jim Skinner did without apparent effort since he was promoted to chief executive in 2004.
Mr. Thompson has two ways to do that. Both have risks. If the charismatic president and chief operating officer adheres to Mr. Skinner’s almost decade-old recipe for success, he could find it harder to excite new customers and get loyal fans to spend even more. If he breaks radically from the “Plan to Win” strategy, on the other hand, he could easily turn off both new and old diners, as well as franchisees and investors.
He’ll play it safe, say many McDonald’s watchers, when he takes over on July 1. Mr. Thompson, 48, famous for his megawatt smile and enthusiastic bearhugs, is by nature a careful person. He started at the Oak Brook-based company in 1990 as an electrical engineer before moving into operations, and he’s known as a logical thinker. He has spent much of his two years as McDonald’s No. 2 traversing the globe to gain more experience abroad.