Burger King hasn’t exactly been the fast-food king in recent years. The chain has been falling behind competitors like McDonald’s and Wendy’s, grasping at straws to remain relevant to younger, hungrier audiences. Along the way, the chain made some pretty big changes and additions but has most recently announced plans of going back to basics.
For more, check out 8 Secrets Burger King Doesn’t Want You to Know.
Just like the Big Mac at McDonald’s, the Whopper is Burger King’s bread and butter; the signature menu item that’s come to be synonymous with the company’s flame-grilled ethos. The difference, though, is the fact that Burger King’s fourth-quarter sales in the U.S. rose 1.8%, while the Big Mac-slinger outpaced it handily with a 7.5% gain. With sales lagging, Burger King is bringing out the big guns, or in this case, “reclaiming the flame.”
In a recent earnings call, executives from parent company Restaurant Brands International touted the nostalgic glory of the Whopper as a key focal point for kickstarting Burger King sales in 2022. This includes marketing the sandwich better and making it faster to prepare, thus easier to get in the hands of drive-thru diners—and alleviating pesky wait times.
As with the Whopper’s removal from the value menu, it’s all part of a key plan to elevate an iconic product and give it the respect it merits. “While we always strive to provide excellent value for money on a full menu basis, going forward, we will be purposeful and targeted when we choose to promote this iconic asset,” said Tom Curtis, President of Burger King for US and Canada.
The chain is also whittling down the menu in general, to streamline preparation processes for workers, speed up orders for customers, and ensure that the Whopper is more front-and-center. By removing other potential menu distractions, the signature sandwich has a better chance to shine.
“For example, we have multiple hamburgers. And we have six ways of putting cheese on hamburgers. Put it on first, last, top, bottom, three slices, two slices. We condensed that. It involves less muscle memory,” said Curtis.
What this means for diners in the U.S. is that the Burger King Whopper experience might soon look a little different, or at least feel a little faster. Pulling from successful strategies in international markets, where sales have fared far better (a 13.6% increase in 2021), the company promises new extensions and innovations around the Whopper.
In many ways, it’s a back-to-basics approach for Burger King’s Whopper revival, to simplify operations and keep the spotlight on the sandwich that made it famous. “We’ll be focusing on our core, on the Whopper, flame-grilling, having it your way,” Curtis says. “Those are really the things that made us great, and the things that will make us great going forward.”