And Mickey D's top executives know it.
"Our future depends on making McDonald's matter to people," Easterbrook said to investors on Wednesday. "We must grow guest counts," Easterbrook added.
"We believe we have lost hundreds of millions of customers," conceded McDonald's Senior Vice President, Corporate Strategy and Business Development Lucy Brady. Brady says the company's new research shows it has lost once loyal customers to competing fast-food chains, not fast-casual spots like Chipotle (CMG - Get Report) . McDonald's U.S. president Chris Kempczinski was even more blunt: he believes McDonald's has lost an astounding 500 million transactions in the U.S. since 2012.
To be sure, despite improving its food quality and expanding its popular all-day breakfast menu McDonald's is still having trouble getting people through the door.
The Golden Arch's guest counts in the U.S. fell 2.1% last year, according to a regulatory filing. In 2015, guest counts in the U.S. dropped 3.0%. Guest counts in the U.S. haven't risen since 2012, when they gained 1.9%.