Burger King's attempt to dive into the gross-out fast-food wars is too little, too late. Its recently announced NY Pizza Burger -- really four burgers with pizza toppings on a giant bun, cut into wedges -- gives Burger King (BKC) a menu item that's a serious health hazard (2400 calories), complicated to assemble, and just plain unappealing.
It has apparently not occurred to anyone at Burger King that burgers are simply not pizza. If they're smart, managers will restrict this menu item to the place it's debuting -- one Whopper Bar in New York.
It's been a season of gross-out food intended to grab headlines and drive sales. To name a few, we've had Carl's Jr.'s foot-long cheeseburger, a hamburger between two grilled-cheese sandwiches at Friendly's, a grilled-cheese sandwich with fried-cheese logs in it at Denny's (DENN), and probably the big Kahuna of crazy fast food, KFC's Double Down. Even in the case of the double down, sales proved disappointing. These are more media stunts than food.
Stop the culinary insanity.
Burger King's franchise owners are already fed up with their corporate parent, which has commanded they add both too-cheap menu items that made them lose money (the $1 double cheeseburger) and poorly planned menu items that they ran out of (BK Fire-Grilled Ribs). The last thing they need is a menu item that's hard to assemble -- one can just imagine how much it could slow down the assembly line and hurt sales volume if hourly workers have to stop and dab marinara and pesto mayo on pizza burgers. Several of the ingredients seem to be unique to the pizza burger, which could potentially also create waste for franchise owners if the item isn't a hit.
One of the biggest BK franchise owners, Carrols Restaurant Group, (TAST), recently reported its sales are down, and blamed the chain's marketing schizophrenia -- plugging dollar-menu items while at the same time also introducing bigger-ticket meals such as the Whiplash Whopper, BK Fire-Grilled Ribs and Steakhouse XT.
Burger King needs to work on a cohesive message on value, menu and price, and then unify its marketing. Throwing a new, crazy food item into the mix would only confuse things. For now, the pizza burger is just a New York oddity -- franchisees are probably hoping it stays that way.
Photo of Triple Whopper via Flickr user VirtualErn