McDonald's appoints UK-born Steve Easterbrook as first-ever non-US CEO. Reuters

British-born Steve Easterbrook will replace Don Thompson, who is stepping down as CEO of US food chain McDonald's after two and a half years in the top job.

McDonald's earlier said Thompson will retire as president and CEO and as a member of the board after about 25 years of service to the company, with effect from 1 March. Easterbrook will also replace him on the company's board.

Easterbrook has been serving as the company's Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Brand Officer, taking care of its marketing, advance menu innovation and digital initiatives.

Prior to that, he served in key leadership roles across the company's global business, including president of McDonald's Europe.

"Steve is a strong and experienced executive who successfully led our UK and European business units and the Board is confident that he can effectively lead the Company to improved financial and operational performance," Andrew McKenna, non-executive Chairman of the Board of Directors, said in a statement.

"I am honoured to lead this great brand, and am committed to working with our franchisees, suppliers and employees to drive forward our strategic business priorities to better serve our customers," Easterbrook said.

The appointment comes at a time when McDonald's is struggling with its disappointing results.

For the fourth quarter, the company reported a 21% year-on-year decline in earnings to $1.1bn (£725m, €969m), as its sales fell for the fifth consecutive quarter.

Looking ahead, the company said its profits would remain under pressure for the next several months as it is looking to win back customers with menu changes.

McDonald's has operations in more than 36,000 locations serving about 69 million customers in over 100 countries each day. More than 80% of McDonald's restaurants worldwide are owned and operated by independent local businessmen and women under franchise agreements.