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What McDonald's Can Learn From Walmart and Target

Not long ago, it seemed the golden arches of McDonald's Corp. were in danger of crumbling under the weight of new competition and diners' emerging preference for healthy food.

But the fast-food giant has staged an impressive turnaround, largely by getting back to doing what it has always done best: It gave customers food they wanted to eat. (Hello, round-the-clock Egg McMuffins.) And it chased hard after budget-conscious consumers.

As it reported earnings on Tuesday, the company said global same-restaurant sales jumped 6.6 percent from a year earlier, the eighth consecutive quarter of gains on this measure. The streak looks especially remarkable given how gloomy things have been looking in the wider restaurant industry.

Shareholders have applauded the progress, pushing the stock near all-time highs. Now, as McDonald's moves on from turnaround mode, it would do well to heed some lessons offered by two retailers that are often located just across the parking lot from it.

Just as McDonald's was able to revive sales by embracing simple changes to its core business, so, too, did the titans of the big-box world: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp.

A few years ago, when Walmart was in a rut, it doubled down on fundamentals. It emphasized making stores tidier and ensuring shelves were well-stocked. It raised employee wages, partly to improve customer service. It worked.

Target, meanwhile, regained momentum in 2015 by...