How To Turn Burger King Around

Integrate Local Craft Brews And The Food, Brand And Entire Business Model Will Gravitate Towards Something Better

Dear BK,

The Whopper Bar concept was a well intentioned venture but you didn’t go all in in creating something different and real and consumers saw through your inauthenticity. The idea of selling beers at a Burger King (in the US) and forming a SABMiller and Anheuser-Busch partnership was not enough. Your “higher end” ingredients and special menu did not impress or help consumers separate the quality of your normal strip mall brand with something that was supposed to be more akin to Five Guys or Shake Shack. It was Fuddruckers at best, which is not saying much.

That being said, let’s take a quick assessment of the present and then look to the future.

Fast food sales aren’t what they used to be. Consumers are more interested in better ingredients, where their meat is sourced, and would rather give their hard earned dollars (when eating out) to respectable brands that at least strive to promote utilizing local resources. The outlook for Burger King and many other archaic fast food brands is pointing towards a flatline immediate and ultimately a general decline if extreme steps aren’t taken.

Here’s what you can do BK to produce a real change: Start stocking local craft brewer’s creations. In doing so you’ll be promoting the following:

  1. Making a personal investment in local enterprise. Consumers are more inclined to buy local at their Whole Foods markets. Take a page from that playbook. Just think if you could do a fraction of their business and bring their demographic into your venues. (btw, you’re going to have to go beyond McCafe brick and mortar design reboot if you have any hopes of doing so)
  2. Aligning your brand and product with a very personal craftsmanship element. This will go contrary to your standard model of working with large scale “food” producers or in this case one of the biggest beer production houses in the world. People love to champion the underdog. Plus that local brewer who is devoting their nights, weekends and every free moment outside their shitty normal job is going to have more integrity in their final product than a automated multibillion dollar operation turning out low quality mass produced suds.
  3. Creating a centralized venue to sample who’s making what in town and connecting with the backstory of the local community. You could have monthly meetup spotlights where you invite local brewmaster to talk and do Q&A for enthusiasts, business students, and entrepreneurs. Just think, with your distribution reach, you could become the next meetup venue for aspiring small business owners who could become your next suppliers of local produce (maybe even organic??). National Thursday Night Startup Meetup over burgers and beer at BK.

And why use beer as the catalyst for change?

Because having a beer is fun and people usually enjoy it where they consume it. Be about that. It will create a larger image change in the minds of patrons than such gimmicks as store redesign, new additions on the menu or offering breakfast all day.

In the beginning you’ll just be competing with Applebee's and Chili's but at least you’ll have a higher value proposition in terms of quality.

Ok that being said, here’s where things get interesting…

When you introduce local heroes and flavors, even a small degree, you’ll begin to invoke a positive brand metamorphosis from the outside which works its way inward towards the core model.

You’ll (hopefully) start caring more about things like where they source their beef. From there, maybe start caring how the cattle is treated and produced. These types of questions might get asked more when deciding what vendors to work with. Go beyond Chipotle. Free range and antibiotic free doesn’t mean shit if the livestock is still part of a mass production line facility.

Local farming will become a topic of discussion and eventually a concern. You’ll start to make connections with the local produce farms. Maybe this will seep its way into regional menus. Who knows, maybe the southwest will have a red and green chili burger while the Northeast will have a veggie beet burger.

Eventually, all aspects and operations of the company could begin to fall in-line with a new agenda of local. A new sense of responsibility and integrity. A company that no longers sources from suppliers at the cheapest market price but one that asks important questions of their suppliers. Questions like are they actually empowering sustainable producers who care about the environment and the livestock they raise?

These are a lot of hypotheticals of how the top corporate leadership could begin thinking differently but maybe the evolution of fast food starts from the bottom up. Introducing small but authentic elements that begin to have an impact on the old framework of poor quality and artificial ingredients.

Granted, this would also be a seismic shift in model but from a corporate social responsibility perspective, you’ll gain the trust of and respect of consumers for a generation to come.

Ok, let’s be realistic, if just 30% of these types of ideas got implemented, Burger King would probably come out on top and stay very much afloat in the “fast food” world of tomorrow.

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