Burger King (BKW) has regained control of its social media presence after its Twitter account was hacked over the weekend, and modified to look like the takeover had been engineered by fast food rival McDonald's.
A little after noon Monday, parties unknown took control of Burger King's official twitter feed, @BurgerKing. Whoever was responsible has a sense of humor: They changed the account's name to "McDonalds," switched the profile photo to the McDonald's logo, and posted a new bio asserting that Burger King had been sold to McDonald's "because the whopper flopped."
The hacker then proceeded to fire off a string of profane tweets, including claims that Burger King employees were using drugs in the bathrooms, and that the chain would offer a gram of bath salts free with every Big Mac.
After more than an hour of mayhem, the account was suspended, and eventually restored to the company's control. On Monday night, the feed's rightful managers announced that they were back, and made reference to the thousands of new followers they'd gained during the fiasco.
Interesting day here at BURGER KING®, but we're back! Welcome to our new followers. Hope you all stick around!
The only hint so far about who might have been responsible for the breach -- and it's far from conclusive -- is that, at one point, a tweet was sent encouraging people to follow the @YourAnonNews account, suggesting someone from the Anonymous hacktivist collective might have been involved.
More amusing, though, is who denied responsibility: McDonald's. The McDonald's social media team (which, we imagine, is taking a hard look at its own security this morning).
We empathize with our @burgerking counterparts. Rest assured, we had nothing to do with the hacking.
Burger King (BKW) might still be home of the Whopper, but it's far from ruling the burger industry these days.
The fast-food restaurant ranks third among the hamburger giants: Last year, Wendy's (WEN) unseated the chain for the No. 2 spot, and it has never been in range of McDonald's (MCD), the undisputed leader, according to consulting firm Technomic.
3G's revival strategy for Burger King included its biggest menu expansion ever last year -- adding items from premium salads and frappe drinks to bacon sundaes -- and a star-studded national ad campaign that ditched its (arguably creepy) "King" mascot for celebrities like soccer star David Beckham and Jay Leno.
Fast-food lovers seemed to respond: For its most recent quarter, Burger King posted its best comp-store sales performance in more than two years.
But there's still work to be done at the No. 3 burger chain if it's going to take a bigger bite out of the fast-food market, West says.
"They're on their second remodeling effort in the U.S., and they have definitely raised the bar when it comes to consumer expectations," he says.
Meanwhile, Burger King "has been trying for a decade to replicate the McDonald's playbook and has failed to do so."
But the IPO could mean a reversal of fortunes for Burger King. "Their new restructuring plan, the use of joint ventures and the procurement of financing through the IPO could spell good times ahead for the 'king of the Whopper,'" West says.
First, Burger King will use its newly public status to get its financial house in order, West says.
"In this case, the proceeds will be used to pay down debt, thus lowering interest expense, and helping with net earnings."
Then comes reinvesting in the business and stepping up expansion -- especially overseas. "Over the next few months, Burger King will see accelerated re-franchising of company-owned stores ... then accelerate unit growth both domestically and internationally, though about 80% to 90% of unit growth will likely be international," he predicts.
Burger King will "continue to bolster their menu offerings in the U.S." -- but new items must be "innovative" if the chain wants to win over more fast-foodies, West says.
That push should go hand-in-hand with beefing up customer service, he says. Indeed, new and more complex menu items, like smoothies, frappes and wraps, have slowed down its service because they reflect "new ingredients, new processes, etc., and thus take [workers'] time to become efficient at making them fast-enough for a drive through operation."
McDonald's has fancied up its units with store remodels that include new half-moon-shaped booths, wooden blinds and even flat-screen TVs, which have changed the popular idea of how a fast-food chain should look these days.
Hence, Burger King needs to spruce up its digs, too. "They need to remodel the store base," West says. "As McDonald's CEO says, 'You can't sell a $6 burger out of a $3 store.' "