Oak Brook, Illinois--Even as it slows the proliferation of full-sized restaurants, McDonald's Corp. is quietly opening McDonald's inside new Wal-Mart stores across the United States. The move, which hasn't been publicized by either company, revitalizes an alliance that stumbled four years ago because of disappointing results. But now, operating in what the hamburger chain calls "more customer-friendly locations" inside the stores, McDonald's is piggybacking on Wal-Mart's rapid expansion.

Today, McDonald's has a presence in about 700, or one-fourth, of the Wal-Mart Discount Stores and Supercenters in the country, and that figure is expected to grow significantly in coming months. Indeed, under current plans, McDonald's could open as many as 200 units in U.S. Wal-Marts next year--twice the number of domestic stand-alone restaurants slated for 2003. McDonald's franchisees say senior officers from corporate headquarters recently spoke of hopes of being in virtually every new Wal-Mart. -Dow Jones Business News