April 3, 2012
According to research firm Technomic, Wendy’s has dethroned Burger King as the world’s number two fast food chain. While Wendy’s narrowly edged out BK in terms of annual sales, both were still far behind McDonald’s, with an enormous $34.2 billion in sales.
There’s a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking going on, invoking everything from mascots to health food trends. Some of it’s on point, and some of it (in my opinion) is way off. To me, I think this is an indicator of Wendy’s hard work at managing their image as a higher quality, healthier alternative to McDonald’s. They’re not going after Burger King or anyone else specifically, they’re just presenting themselves as a niche market, a drive-thru burger place with leaf lettuce and fresh(er) tomatoes. McDonald’s is always going to be on top, because they’ve found the ideal point of convergence between price and quality, but Wendy’s can pick up the more discerning crowd, which lacks in volume but (hopefully) is loyal.
Remember, I’m not saying Wendy’s actually is a healthier, higher-quality alternative. I don’t have any nutritional values in front of me, but it feels like if you’re health-conscious, any place with a drive-thru probably isn’t the best bet. But through their advertising campaigns, Wendy’s has managed to project an air of quality, which seems to have caught on. People know they can go there and pick up a salad instead of a burger in they so choose. For their part, Burger King seems to be in a bit of a tailspin. They’ve been trying a couple of different brand concepts and menu items, but nothing so far seems to have caught on. They’ve relied on being a household name for too long, and now they’re going to have to work to stay in the game.
The thing to keep in mind about this is that when chain restaurants compete, you win. Prices drop, and franchises begin offering more creative, bold options in an effort to redefine their brand. As long as Burger King puts in work and doesn’t thrash around, we should be in for some interesting sandwiches over the next year or so.
As part of a marketing push for the re-release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, French fast food chain Quick is offering a couple of Star Wars-themed burgers. They have a Jedi burger with onions and a spicy-looking Darth Maul burger, but the sandwich which has attracted the most attention is the “Darth Vador Burger,” a hamburger which includes cheese, Thousand Island-style dressing and from the looks of it, some kind of hot peppers, all on a jet-black bun.
The bun is apparently just dyed, and not new flavors have been added to go along with the coloring. Adding strange colors to fast food isn’t a new gimmick; I remember about twelve years ago Burger King ran a promotion about green ketchup and barbeque sauce. But dying your bun a color normally associated with burnt food may not be the best decision, Star Wars be damned. Since it’s exclusive to the French/Belgian chain, it’s unlikely I’ll be able to try this burger, which is a shame. But if any French Sandwichtalk readers come across it and decide to give it a try, be sure to post your thoughts in the comments. May the Force be with you.