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Burger King Fails to Plan for Success With New Rib Meal

Suppose you put a more expensive new restaurant item on your menu that could give your company higher margins and profits -- and it was a smash success. Would you be ready to make the most of it? Managers at Burger King (BKC) weren't. After introducing its fire-grilled rib May 24, the chain quickly sold 10 million grilled pork ribs and began running low first on packaging for the larger rib orders, then on meat. The company is having to pull the plug early on the lucrative promotion, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Now, in Burger King's defense, the ribs are an unlikely hit. When the promotion began, I was skeptical that fast-food buyers would pay as much as $8.99 to eat ribs at Burger King's plastic tables. Some food reviewers hazed long wait times and the stubby, scrawny ribs as well.

But consumers just gobbled them down. Who knew? Well, Burger King should have.

When you're a huge, national restaurant chain, you need to know where you can get really large quantities of particular foods so that you don't run out. They don't run out of burger meat at Burger King no matter what, but apparently the importance of having a backup source for extra pork ribs somehow got lost when the game plan was drawn up for introducing this new meal.

Now, Burger King's having to juggle its advertising to stop plugging the ribs, and the company is leaving money on the table because it didn't have a backup plan for keeping its restaurants supplied -- that's gotta be making their franchise owners grumpy. After two years of being hammered on margins in the fast-food price wars, including being ordered by BK corporate to sell money-losing $1 cheeseburgers, franchisees would no doubt have been grateful for a chance to grab every profit dollar they could wring from the rib promotion. Instead, they've been handed another boondoggle.

With the economy starting to percolate again, Burger King's rib debacle shows it's time to broaden strategic planning again. Instead of just figuring out how to survive worst-case scenarios, it's time for managers to make sure they've planned for success, too.

Photo via Flickr user jasonlam

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