Fast food is a tough category. While McDonalds obviously has the secret sauce to the number one spot, the actions of number two through five are like watching a three ring circus. Only one can be something for everyone, everyone else, needs to figure out how to be the anti-something for everyone and pick their niche.
Chipotle is the envy of the industry- with a ridiculously low ad budget (they actually dropped from $7.5 million in measured media in 2010 to $5.8 in 2011 according to Ad Age Mar 12, 2012, “Chipotle aims to buck fast-food convention- while it still can“) and a menu that doesn’t change much and a business model that doesn’t rely on “Sales” or price off promotions. Chipotle has a value proposition: a big portion of fresh locally sourced food, that’s made to order in front of you. Subway uses part of the same model and is the number two fast feeder: A custom made sandwich at a reasonable price.
Lately, Burger King has ditched one of the hottest agencies in the country, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, cut ties with CMO Russ Klein (who has bounced back at Arby’s) and gone back on the mission to out-McDonald’s McDonalds:
The restaurant’s menu will include a record 10 new items, among them, made-to-order smoothies and three new salads. Burger King also will increase its marketing efforts, featuring soccer player David Beckham, talk show host Jay Leno, actress Salma Hayek and singer Mary J. Blige in upcoming commercials. The chain plans to send out 40 food trucks across the country to hand out food at events and set up sampling inside some Burger King locations.
The chain is reportedly attempting to broaden its menu with healthier and more snack alternatives in an effort to appeal to mothers, families and Baby Boomers. Burger King and its franchisees will spend an estimated $750 million to revamp stores over the next 12 months.
Burger King built their business on the Whopper- a burger that used to be bigger and tastier than a Big Mac. The company hit pay dirt when they challenged market leader McDonalds with “Have it your way” as a way to differentiate their offering as made to order and fresh- utilizing “Flame broiling” instead of frying- positioning them as the burger kings- in the same way you make a great burger in your back yard. Burger King appealed to some of the same triggers that work for Chipotle and Subway- their food was made more the way you make it at home. Home cooking beats the factory- that was a message and positioning that resonated.
To be the Burger King, all they had to do was make the best burger our there. Now, they are placing bets on salads, frappes, wraps and famous faces. Compare that to upstart chain, Five Guys. The whole business is focused on making burgers and fries. When you order- the cashier calls back the number of patties that need to be on the grill- nothing else. Take out the frying surface and replace it with open flame grilling and they would be the penultimate burger kings.The oversize portions of freshly cut fries as well as the fresh meat burgers make them the new Burger Kings. Advertising is mostly accomplished by word of mouth and the reviews posted around the store remind you that this is the burger joint of old reincarnated. Note- they don’t have a dollar menu, don’t do couponing, no TV ads either. Like the Chipotle model, the entire kitchen and process is on display.
My visit yesterday to Burger King to check out the “new changes” confirmed that BK isn’t the Burger King anymore- despite having cast aluminum burger flippers for door pulls, once I got into the line and watched the digital menu screens show me salads getting the sexy dressing pour and sundaes getting drizzled with chocolate sauce - I almost forgot I was in a burger place. The menu is schizophrenic with “stackers” for a buck- and the next step up is a burger starting at $3+. To confuse matters there are a ton of chicken offerings, salads and who knows what else. No one told me it would be at least three minutes for the “Chicken snack wrap” until after I ordered and the confusion of trying to speed things up by switching, then not switching my chicken for a second stacker reminded me of a three ring circus.
The moral of the story is to be successful, a brand has to know who they are and stick to it. That’s why the new Burger King is obviously Five Guys.