Budget eater were enticed by the chain's value menu (Getty).
McDonald's Corp eked out a higher profit in the fourth quarter by luring diners with its value menu, but the world's biggest hamburger chain also warned that a key sales figure is expected to drop this month.
The downbeat forecast reflects the intensifying competition and changing dining habits McDonald's faces.
After years of outperforming its rivals, McDonald's recently hit a snag and took a series of steps to bolster slumping sales, such as touting its Dollar Menu and pushing franchisees to stay open on Christmas.
In November, the company ousted the president of its US business after reporting its first monthly sales drop in nearly a decade.
For the period ended December 31, McDonald's says it earned $1.33 billion. That compares with $1.30 billion a year ago.
Revenue rose to $6.58 billion, up from $6.46 billion.
Globally, however, sales at restaurants open at least a year rose just 0.1 per cent for the period. In the US, the figure rose 0.3 per cent.
In Europe, McDonald's biggest market, the figure fell 0.6 per cent as guest counts declined.
The figure fell 1.7 per cent in the region encompassing Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
That's an important measurement of a restaurant chain's performance.
Over the long term, CEO Don Thompson said the company continues to target total sales growth of three per cent to five per cent.