Burger King has a new, healthier menu. On Monday, the fast-food chain introduced 10 new food items, making the menu expansion its largest since the burger joint launched in 1954.
"We found that consumers wanted a broader range of menu options," Steve Wiborg, Burger King's North America president, says in a statement.
"After extensive consumer testing in both our test kitchens and at restaurants around the country, our consumers chose these as their favorites," Wiborg says.
Burger King executives claim the new "better-for-you" menu — including chicken strips, caramel frappe coffees, Caesar salads and strawberry-banana smoothies — was inspired by market research and a year-long analysis of the business, but critics can't help but point out the similarities to McDonald's menu expansion in recent years.
McDonald's starting adding premium items and healthier options to its menu in 2003 with the introduction of its specialty salads. Snack wraps followed in 2006, coffee drinks in 2009, and fruit smoothies in 2010.
McDonald's success triggered a copy-cat effect in other fast-food menus. Wendy's now tops select sandwiches with asiago cheese and is testing high-end "Black Label" burgers.
Burger King also seems to be taking a page out of Starbucks' playbook, adding couch-like and hangout-worthy seating to its restaurants.
Is this renovation too late? Eddie Yoon, a principal at consulting firm The Cambridge Group, tells the Associated Press that if Burger King's strategy is merely a "me, too" one, the venture will likely fall flat. Innovation is critical.
"You can have football teams, and just because they're both running the same offence, it doesn't mean it will work the same," he says.
Still, Tom McDonald, owner of 19 Burger King franchises, claims that his sales were falling because Burger King couldn't compete with other chains' newer, healthier options:
"We were getting behind with the wraps and salads that were coming on the market," he tells the Associated Press. "We had salads, but they weren't as good as the competition. We focused on burgers maybe longer than we should have."
As part of the new-menu launch, Burger King has enlisted celebrity spokespeople for a national advertising campaign. Jay Leno, David Beckham, Mary J. Blige, Steven Tyler, Salma Hayek and Sofia Vergara will all encourage consumers to give the new options a chance.
The LA Times looked at the new menu and found that the nutritional stats aren't very impressive:
"For instance, the new Garden Fresh Salad Chicken Caesar with Tendercrisp and Dressing contains no fewer than 670 calories and 1,760 milligrams of sodium. That means you would get about a third of your daily recommended 2,000 calories from that one salad, plus more than your entire daily recommended 1,500 mg of sodium," David Lazarus writes.
Burger King is currently holding third place in the U.S. hamburger-chain race, following McDonald's and Wendy's. In Canada, it doesn't even place in the top four: McDonald's, A&W, Wendy's and Harvey's take the top spots.
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