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Delayed gratification. Those aren't words that investors like to hear, especially from a fast-food restaurant.

Yet, when McDonald's Corp.  (MCD) - Get McDonald's Corporation Report reports second-quarter 2018 earnings on Thursday, July 26, before the bell, that idea may ring true. 

McDonald's is expected to report earnings per share of $1.92 on sales of $5.3 billion, based on a FactSet survey of 28 analysts. The stock has fallen 5.2% since the company last reported earnings on Apr. 30. Shares are off more than 8% for the year to date.

Recent analyst notes focus on 2019 being a more robust year for the company than this year.

At the helm is Steve Easterbrook, an accountant by training, who took the top spot at McDonald's in 2015, following a stint as the company's chief brand officer and who also formerly oversaw McDonald's in the U.K. and northern Europe. 

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Among the measures under his watch are the so-called Experience of the Future (EOTF), a modernization of some 1,000 U.S.locations now underway. The changes include adding ordering kiosks, curbside pickup at select stores and upgraded drive-thru. These changes are designed to work in concert mobile ordering and payment systems as well as delivery from certain locations.

Here, Easterbrook's report card: 

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"2018 will be a transition year," wrote RBC Capital Markets analyst David Palmer in a recent note. The analyst believes that the long-term strategy of McDonald's is "still underappreciated, and added, "while the deceleration in U.S. single-store sales growth in the first half of 2018 is a modest disappointment compared to early 2018 expectations, we believe that there are underappreciated near-term drags to sales and other reasons for improvement in 2019 and beyond."

Stifel analyst Chris O'Cull said he sees an improved restaurant space after polling consumers, with McDonald's also benefiting. "We estimate second-quarter domestic same-restaurant sales of 3.1% (Street 3.1%; first-quarter 2.9%) benefiting from a nationwide promotion of breakfast sandwiches (2 for $4 offer) and the May national campaign of fresh beef, which should have boosted the check average given the mix shift to the higher-priced double Quarter Pounder," he wrote in a recent note.

"Our estimates are sensitive to the number of days stores [for EOTF] are closed for full remodels (10 to 14 days) and a modest sales lift continuing in year two  following a full remodel (we assumed 1%)," added O'Cull. "We believe there may be lingering benefits in year two as the company has indicated this has been the case in Europe where they are further along in reimaging/EOTF implementation."

The upshot? Delayed gratification.