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10 Reasons Why Burger King Fell Behind McDonald’s


10 Reasons Why Burger King Fell Behind McDonald’s

Who’s corner are you in? The feud between the King and Ronald McDonald has been simmering for years. People have often staked their claims as a fan of either the Golden Arches or the flame broiled promise of the Burger King Whopper. Despite the long standing competition, it appears that in the most recent decade, despite many interesting ad campaigns targeting McDonald’s, Burger King has been unable to effectively secure their place on the throne as the ultimate in fast food. Sit down, grab a Whopper or a Big Mac, and enjoy these 10 Reasons Why Burger King Fell Behind McDonald’s.

10. Tim Horton and Popeye’s: Allies of the King

A major difference in the success of Burger King and McDonald’s relates directly to their individual business plans regarding company acquisitions. While McDonald’s has dabbled in the past with purchasing other smaller fast food chains, it has found its greatest success focusing directly on the McDonald’s brand itself and has mostly left partnerships with other chains in the past. Unfortunately, Burger King’s parent company has taken a drastically different approach to the subject and has recently purchased the rights to both the Tim Hortons and Popeye’s name. Although in theory this sounds like a plan for success, with each restaurant having their own respective fan bases, some seriously flawed decision making over the past 10 years has left not only Burger King neglected, but the other restaurants overly promoted and undervalued. Luckily the recent Popeye’s chicken sandwich has increased the brands popularity, but the parent company needs to put major focus into all three restaurants if Burger King hopes to find success once again. It can be an amazing opportunity for Burger King if they are able to work effectively with their new partners such as has been seen with the relationship between Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC. However equivalent focus needs to be placed into each restaurant to ensure they all continue towards a path of success instead of getting lost along the way.

9. BK Breakfast Rush Needs a Morning Boost

Although much of the world still regards breakfast as a mainly “at home meal”, the fast paced American lifestyle has absolutely dominated the fast-food breakfast world. With early start times and varying shifts within the economy, an extremely diverse nation has opened up the door to the breakfast world in terms of dining out. Although they have been selling breakfast since the early 1980’s, unfortunately for Burger King, their biggest competitor, McDonald’s, is seen as the industry standard since the introduction of the Egg McMuffin in 1972. It was now time for Burger King to play a serious game of catch up, an unfortunate recurring theme when it comes to McDonald’s and Burger King’s troubled relationship. Although more than likely you have made the choice  at some point or another to grab a Croissan’wich on the way to work, the Burger King breakfast menu is largely considered a current failure. Only making up approximately 15% of the day to day sales, breakfast is not making nearly enough cash for the Burger King business. One of the more debated reasons for their perceived failure would be the lack of focus on the coffee market. As the most common addiction in the world, caffeine itself has the pull necessary to bring customers back time and time again. While McDonald’s were busy creating and expanding its line of McCafe beverages and a coffee brand adored by many happy customers, Burger King has gotten lost. It is time for BK to focus on a seriously good coffee brand and some new, fresh breakfast menu items that will appeal to the new generation. The greasy, salty breakfast sandwiches of the 1980’s should no longer stand center stage in the Burger King Breakfast lineup.

8. McDonald’s Name Gives Franchise Owners Confidence

One of Burger King’s major barriers to achieving success is instilling confidence within the franchise owners. The standardization and household name of McDonald’s makes franchise owners feel incredibly comfortable in trusting the corporate decisions being made at the head office. While Burger King’s history is fraught with schemes that have panned out poorly, there have been few major missteps in McDonald’s history. Somehow, the brand always seems to be one step ahead of the curve leaving Burger King to play catch up. This becomes increasingly evident in terms of restaurant renovations and major menu changes. Franchise owners who are only dealing with relative success are unlikely to feel comfortable putting up money in order to complete any proposed changes planned by corporate. In order to really put themselves at the competitors table, Burger King needs to focus on clear planning and decision making that will guarantee results. Once the restaurants start seeing the results as promised, it will be much easier for the company to continue acting progressively which will enable them to become the game changers instead of simple players following the rules the have been set for them.

7. Vegetarian Meals Were a Massive Failure

The late 2010’s brought forward a style of diet which has long been practiced internationally, but was under-represented in western society for much of the 20th century. As an increase in planet based diets was being witnessed, restaurants realized that their meaty sandwiches would not be able to satisfy the ever expanding vegan and vegetarian market. With the introduction of the Impossible Whopper in 2018, Burger King officially entered the vegetarian fast food game, although many other restaurants were already offering alternative vegetarian options. This new campaign was focused on an international roll-out for the new meatless Whopper, as opposed to individual franchises opting in or out of offering the vegetarian option, depending on location. Unfortunately for many vegetarian Burger King fans, the success of the Impossible Whopper has been hindered by serious issues not considered by corporate at the time of launch. The burger is not only non-vegan, but it is also actually cooked on the same grill as the chicken and beef patties, rendering the burgers themselves now questionably vegetarian. When this news hit the ears of consumers, it became another failure that would seriously cost this company credibility when looking towards establishing trustworthy customer relationships. It’s important that companies focus on their ethics while releasing and advertising new products and make sure they are actually delivering what is promised, as opposed to what they consider to be good enough.

6. Tasteless Advertising Campaigns that Turned Off the Public

One of the things that fans adore about Burger King are their fun and classic advertisements. The King himself has been featured in many commercials in addition to other ad campaigns that take a jovial dig at their biggest competitor: McDonald’s. Despite having several successful campaigns over the years, some of Burger King’s recent advertisements have been incredibly polarizing and many have appeared almost downright offensive. The Real Meals – an oppositional product to the famous Happy Meal – were supposed to promote a sense of mental health awareness. Unfortunately, the campaign was seen more as tasteless than informative. Multiple other advertisements have been banned or considered scandalous in regards to their often blatant sexist, rude or sometimes racially insensitive campaigns. In the past, issues like this were quickly forgotten, however as times progress and change, it is incredibly important that Burger King use advertisements that appeal to the masses instead of excluding or offending potential customers. As they say, catching flies is easier with honey than vinegar!

5. Domestic Market Forgotten in the Pursuit of Global Recognition

It’s extremely important that we recognize that although the Burger King brand is struggling in the United States, where it was founded, the international platform has greatly expanded. In fact, the international branding may be so successful that it may be one of the obstacles to greater success in the western market. With an abundance of focus being placed towards these new locations on a global scale, the outdated restaurants of America are growing less and less appealing to the changing domestic market. Continued focus on expansion meant that the locations that built the brand were being left to fend for themselves without any attention and care besides that of the struggling franchise owners themselves. Although this expansion has been phenomenal for the Burger King brand in general, it has left a bad taste in the mouths of its American fan base, one of the most crucial on the planet. Bad reviews can quickly turn into bad business on a global scale and Burger King needs to focus on the home base once again in order to establish themselves as a familiar favorite.

4. Focusing on Imitation Rather than Elimination: The Big 3

Burger King has some of the most iconic menu items ever to grace the fast food stage. The Whopper itself is completely synonymous with the Burger King brand and their onion rings and Original Chicken Sandwiches are delicious items that Burger King fans adore in comparison to the competitors options. One of Burger King’s biggest mistakes of the last 30 years was a failed campaign which featured their own versions of some of McDonald’s biggest menu items. The idea was that if they offered all of the same types of burgers, there would be no need to ever to visit the competitor. Although arguably Burger King has long been imitating McDonald’s, these new menu additions were blatant knock-offs of some of the most iconic McDonald’s items. The Big King was rolled out as an almost identical replica of the Big Mac, the Big Fish was launched to compete against the Filet’ O Fish sandwich and double versions of the sandwiches were also available. Met with relative success, Burger King has continued to focus on imitation with products like a version of the Quarter Pounder and seasonal McRib sandwich. Although it may be able to snag a few customers, Burger King needs to focus on revamping their original menu with fresh items and focus on their own classic staple menu items. Burger King does not need to make the same burgers that Ronald is serving up down the street. There are lots of burger fans out there waiting for their next jaw-dropping sandwich, and plenty of room for everyone at the party.

3. The Restaurant of the Future: Burger King’s Comeback

As many may remember, the 2010’s saw a lot of different fast food chains such as Wendy’s, Taco Bell and McDonald’s, focusing on cleaning up their restaurant’s image – both in physical locations and in terms of persona. After a boom in upgrades and renovations in the 90’s, and the 2000’s seeming very lackluster in terms of fresh menu ideas, major chains knew that it was becoming increasingly important that the restaurants put forth a clean and welcoming environment as the fast food game continued to expand, diversify, and welcome many more new players. Burger King absolutely missed the memo in terms of cleaning up their restaurant image which has left the brand seeming stale, outdated and greasy in terms of both their restaurant locations and the menu items themselves. More importantly than cleaning up the iconic Burger King menu was actually cleaning up a lot of the franchise locations themselves. BK outlets remain abundant with old outdated plastic table booths, questionable design concepts from nearly 30 years ago, and old signage that offer little in terms of increasing sales. The good news is that Burger King is slowly working towards cleaning up their menus after launching the “Restaurant of the Future” initiative that would mean updating the restaurants with touch-screen ordering systems, new design concepts, new menu display boards and many other fun and exciting restaurant additions more in tune with 2020 rather than 1990. These renovations plan to focus heavily on updates needed due to recent pandemic. Additional safety precautions, a focus on park and order spots, pick up windows and more are in the plans! Although they may have struggled in the past, Burger King has picked the absolute perfect time to renovate as it has never been more necessary than it is today. It will be exciting to watch as these new restaurants are unveiled internationally. It’s amazing that decades after their closure, drive-in restaurants appear to be the way of the future once again!

2. Not Appealing to the Youngest & Most Important Demographic

As most retailers are aware, the most important demographic for sales is the age group between 18-30. If the young people deem that something is “cool” then odds are it will succeed. Unfortunately for Burger King, it seems the last time they were able to appeal to young adults was during its golden early years in the 80’s and early 90’s. Since the days of neon fashion and then grunge, when the King had a say at the fast food table, Burger King has struggled to revamp and once again find themselves on the outside looking in on those who have turned from fatty burgers to fresh avocado toast. Missing out on some major cues over the last 20 years, Burger King has outdated itself by refusing to continuously update and act as a progressive front-runner in the fast food race. In the modern day where there are more competitive fast food restaurants than ever before on Earth, Burger King needs to continuously push in a forward direction so that they are able to appeal to the younger demographic, while also inspiring nostalgia for long-time Burger King fans. Once things like the promotional menu items, the franchise locations, and the advertising structure have been updated, the restaurant will no longer be standing in the shadows of the Golden Arches.

1. Focus on The Classics

Although the Whopper is easily one of the most recognizable fast food menu items anywhere on the globe, the Burger King menu is not as quite memorable as their largest competitor the big “M”. While McDonald’s has gone back to their basics and have heavily promoted classic menu items like their Big Mac, Quarter Pounder, Filet-O-Fish, and iconic french fries, Burger King has taken a very different approach. McDonald’s works hard developing long term customers who will continually return for their favorite menu items, but Burger King has placed their efforts towards new and exciting promotional items that bring in massive numbers within the first few weeks of release, but often fizzle out quickly after the products novelty has worn off. Despite having been in business for nearly 70 years, Burger King’s continued focus on promotional products has meant that the BK menu has remained largely without a true identity. It’s sometimes difficult to order at Burger King because you never know the staple menu items that are available, unlike with McDonald’s. The few classic menu items that people seem to love are often covered up by large promotional posters making the ordering experience difficult and distracting. Fast food needs to be easy and with a menu that is constantly changing, it is very difficult to develop a fan base that craves the Burger King classics. Once that love of the original menu has been restored, the King shall conquer all. 

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