How Burger King fell behind

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Burger King wants to move into the future, but it’s still stuck in the past.

The fast food chain’s parent company, Restaurant Brands International (QSR), said last month that it plans to modernize Burger King’s locations across the country in a plan it calls “Burger King of Tomorrow.”

Despite the project’s name, Burger King’s efforts are nothing new. The updated restaurants will feature self-order kiosks and sleeker restaurants — changes Burger King’s competitors started making years ago. While its competitors were upgrading their stores, Burger King focused on marketing campaigns and menu items.

Burger King’s new restaurants will feature open kitchens, double drive-thru lanes and outdoor digital menu boards. The burger chain hopes the changes will convince American consumers to order Burger King meals more often and spend more money at the store.

The plan is a move in the right direction, said Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy. It’s important for Burger King to focus on increasing convenience. But the brand is “playing catch-up here,” he said.

Gimmicks and ads

Until its modernization plan, Burger King had been pushing gimmicky products, including a Halloween burger that gives you nightmares. It also weighed in on political topics with stunts like a “chick tax” on chicken fries in pink packaging, designed to call attention to the so-called pink tax on women’s products, and a Whopper “fast lane” that sought to explain net neutrality.

“They’ve really focused a lot on marketing, product development and menu innovation,” said Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail..

“They’re very good at coming up with the one-off menu innovations,” he added. “That drives traffic.”

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