McDonald's, based in Oak Brook, Illinois, has generally managed to do better than most of its competitors in the recession. But even its long run of revenue growth came under pressure amid high unemployment, causing revenue to slip in 2009 for the first time in more than a quarter-century.
For the first quarter, McDonald's earned $1.09 billion, or $1 per share. Those results included a 3-cents-per-share charge related to closing locations in Japan.
Wednesday's profit compares with earnings of $979.5 million, or 87 cents per share, in the same quarter last year.
Revenue for the three-month period that ended on March 31 rose 10 percent to $5.61 billion - the first back-to-back boost for the figure since late 2008.
The performance was better than Wall Street predicted, as analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had forecast a first-quarter profit of 96 cents per share on revenue of $5.52 billion. Those estimates typically exclude one-time items.
In the U.S., customers snapped up McDonald's drinks such as frappes and coffee drinks from its McCafe line. Meanwhile, its new breakfast dollar menu also seemed to resonate with consumers as they sought out fast and cheap meals to start off their day.
And a key U.S. sales figure also rose, with sales at domestic restaurants open at least a year up 1.5 percent during the quarter.
That figure is an important indicator of a restaurant's health because it measures results at existing locations rather than newly opened ones.
Worldwide sales at restaurants open at least a year grew 4.2 percent for the quarter, with Europe climbing 5.2 percent and Asia/Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa up 5.7 percent.
McDonald's shares rose 48 cents to $70.82 in morning trading Wednesday.