US fastfood chain McDonald’s will invest US$75m in Chile between 2001 and 2003, opening 45 new restaurants despite a recent decline in sales.

The company’s Chilean manager, Jerome Lyman, says he hopes McDonald’s will have more than 120 outlets in Chile by 2003. Roughly half of the planned restaurants will be situated in the Santiago area, while the remainder will be distributed throughout the country’s 12 provinces. Franchises will be sold for between US$80,000 and US$120,000, with owners also paying a monthly royalty equivalent to 5% of sales.

McDonald’s has recently recorded a nationwide drop in sales in Chile, due to the poor state of the national economy. Lyman commented: “Sales have dropped by between 2 and 8%, depending on the area. Obviously we were worst hit in Region V, where unemployment is highest. On the other hand, we have just opened new branches in the north and we are beating our sales targets there.”

Lyman added that figures show that roughly the same numbers have patronized McDonald’s restaurants as before the economic slump, but that per person expenditure has dropped. The company believes that its sales figures will pick up as the country’s economic prospects improve. McDonald’s has a 40% share of the Chilean fastfood industry; its principal competitors are Burger King, Lomitón and Pizza Hut.