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McDonald's (MCD) - Get McDonald's Corporation Report  has a more positive attitude these days.

That may have to do with CEO Steve Easterbrook, a fast-food industry veteran who took the job in January 2015 and has been pushing initiatives to improve the company's quality of food and service.

Yet the company continues to face an array of serious challenges. They include a growing cynicism about fast food, low prices at supermarkets and increasing competition in the fast food and fast-casual restaurant sectors. Investors should stay clear of the company until some of the changes Easterbrook has masterminded show their impact -- or don't. McDonald's stock was roughly flat in Thursday trading.  

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To be sure, third-quarter revenue and profits surpassed consensus forecasts, while same-store sales witnessed healthy growth. Additionally, a bevy of younger customers seem to be returning to McDonald's thanks to self-order kiosks, a mobile app and extended customization options.

However, the U.S. business barely topped analysts' expectations. The U.S. accounts for about 40% of the company's overall profit. Other companies, including competitor Burger King, which is owned by Restaurant Brands International, have done better. 

The company faces a seemingly endless array of burger alternatives, including higher-end chains like Shake Shack and regional chains that emphasize the quality of their meat. Customers who want a great burger tend not to opt for McDonald's. 

Healthier options like kale, wraps, fruits and salads can only partially overhaul the McDonald's image. It's the same for all-day breakfasts, a new recipe for chicken McNuggets and ordering kiosks. 

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McDonald's revenues, which fell almost 3% to $6.42 billion in the third quarter, represented the ninth straight quarterly decline. 

While the company may attempt to attribute these figures to the sale of restaurants to franchisees, the lengthy revenue drop is powerful evidence of waning demand.

McDonald's will have to make some additional changes to its menu and otherwise to reverse this trend. That will become particularly important as initiatives from the last year peter out or end. 

Panera BreadStarbucks and other food chains are ahead of McDonald's for earnings. 

Panera Bread and Starbucks are holdings in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS Charitable Trust Portfolio. Want to be alerted before Cramer buys or sells PNRA or SBUX? Learn more now.

Avoid the stock and take a wait-and-see attitude. There are better places for your money.


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This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.