Have it your way ... on aisle 3: Burger King goes to the supermarket
This move, while strange, is not all that surprising. Once upon a time, restaurant-branded foods were limited to occasional offerings like Cafe Du Monde's chicory coffee or deep-frozen White Castle sliders. However, over the past few years, clever marketers and thrifty consumers have combined to make restaurant foods a major presence in grocery stores. From Taco Bell's chunky salsa and dinner platters to Starbucks' bagged coffee and chocolate truffles, branded goods have made restaurant foods cheaper, more convenient, and -- in the case of Taco Bell -- less likely to contain E. Coli.
Given the growing success of these products, it's not surprising that so many companies are making use of supermarkets. However, while Starbucks is expanding its offerings with a branded coffee ice cream and California Pizza Kitchen is hawking flatbread melts, Burger King is in a somewhat difficult position.
Most of its signature dishes aren't an easy fit for the grocery store. As White Castle's sliders demonstrate, burgers don't react well to long periods in the freezer, and the King's fries are mediocre under the best of circumstances. One can only imagine how they'd survive a few months in a frost-coated plastic bag.Consequently, Burger King is hitting below the belt -- literally. The company's new "apple fries" will be featured in the produce section, and one may assume that they will occupy a space at kid-eye-level. To BK's credit, this move is well timed for cross-promotion. The fries, which are basically peeled, cored apples that are cut to look like french fries, are served with a low-fat caramel sauce and form part of the restaurants' new "healthy" kid's meals. Designed to appeal to both sugar-craving rugrats and attentive parents, they will probably end up becoming the kind of "treat" that parents can easily afford and kids will go crazy for.
This follows in the footsteps of several moves to reposition the Burger King brand. Between the company's new "Whopper bars," it's manipulative "Whopper Sacrifice" Facebook promotion, and its intense Twitter presence, it is clear that BK is making a major push to be number one. This, in fact, may provide the best incentive for the new move to groceries: unlike many other restaurants working their way into stores, Burger King is entering a wide-open arena. There aren't that many branded products in the produce area, which means that, for once, the King won't be looking over his shoulder at a certain yellow-clad clown!
For the best restaurant brands on supermarket shelves, check out this gallery.