Burger King Accepts Chicken Fries, and Itself

Acceptance is the first step to recovery. After years of management, menu and marketing changes, Burger King has finally figured out what it wants to be: a fast-food chain.
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    Before 3G Capital Partners LP bought Burger King, the chain went through a series of CEOs and catered almost exclusively to young men—a strategy that hurt it when the recession hit that demographic particularly hard.
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    After the new owners arrived, Burger King began mimicking what had worked for McDonald’s: offering something for everyone. But they went too far, adding too many products too quickly and without enough testing.
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    The bloated menu complicated kitchen operations and failed to attract customers as hoped. In 2010, Burger King launched more than 30 limited-time offers and 20 permanent menu items. By comparison, it launched 20 limited-time offers last year and no permanent menu items.
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    When Burger King launched a spicy version of its chicken sandwich, the recipe called for mayonnaise to be applied to the top and bottom buns, creating “havoc” in the kitchens.
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    Burger King still hasn’t entirely abandoned its throw-it-against-the-wall approach to product development. It experimented with different flavors of hot dogs during tests in five different cities, including a “rodeo” dog topped with barbecue sauce and crispy onion rings.
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    The company decided to roll out only items that would have high impact. The first major product under that strategy was actually an old one: chicken fries, which are french-fry shaped strips of fried chicken.
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    Burger King dropped chicken fries in 2012 as it was simplifying the menu, but an employee noticed that more people were tweeting about wanting chicken fries back than about anything else Burger King-related. So in August 2014 it revived the product, selling out in two weeks. Chicken fries are now a permanent menu item.
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    Customers still want their food fast—something Burger King has struggled with. It wants to reduce the average time between drive-through order and pickup to 2 minutes and 45 seconds.
  9. 9.
    Burger King’s efforts to pare down a menu that had grown too complicated have helped drive enough improvement in the brand’s core U.S. business that executives now feel confident about expanding again in this country.
  10. 10.
    The changes are showing results. Burger King’s adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization grew 68% between 2010 and 2015. Burger King last year bought Canadian coffee-and-doughnut chain Tim Hortons, forming Restaurant Brands.
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    Through focus groups and surveys, executives eventually decided customers wanted Burger King to hew to its original identity, embodied by its practice of flame-grilling burgers.
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    Now, restaurants bear signs saying “grilled since 1954,” wooden tabletops are branded with the Burger King logo, and the company is promoting its flame-grilled hot dogs as tasting like they’re from a backyard barbecue.
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    Full story and video: http://on.wsj.com/1SAy8Pt