Burger King operates and franchises fast food hamburger restaurants, primarily under the Burger King brand worldwide. As of March 31, 2012, it operated 934 restaurants in the United States and Canada; and 351 restaurants in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA), Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), and the Asia Pacific (APAC), as well as franchised 6,554 restaurants in the U.S. and Canada, and 4,695 restaurants in EMEA, LAC, and APAC. The company is headquartered in Miami, Florida.
the company was founded in 1953 as InstaBurger King, a Jacksonville, Florida-based restaurant chain. After Insta-Burger King ran into financial difficulties in 1954, its two Miami-based franchisees David Edgerton and James McLamore purchased the company and renamed it “Burger King”. Over the next half-century, the company would change hands four times, with its third set of owners, a partnership of TPG Capital, Bain Capital, and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, taking it public in 2002. In late 2010, 3G Capital of Brazil acquired a majority stake in the company, in a deal valued at US$3.26 billion. The new owners promptly initiated a restructuring of the company to reverse its fortunes. 3G, along with partner Berkshire Hathaway, eventually merged the company with the Canadian-based doughnut chain Tim Hortons, under the auspices of a new Canadian-based parent company named Restaurant Brands International.
When the predecessor of Burger King first opened in Jacksonville in 1953, its menu consisted predominantly of basic hamburgers, French fries, soft drinks, milkshakes, and desserts. After being acquired by its Miami, Florida, franchisees and renamed to its current moniker in 1954, BK began expanding the breadth of its menu by adding the Whopper sandwich in 1957. This quarter-pound hamburger was created by Burger King’s new owners James McLamore and David Edgerton as a way to differentiate BK from other burger outlets at the time. Since its inception, the Whopper has become synonymous with Burger King and has become the focus of much of its advertising. The company even named its new kiosk-style restaurants Whopper Bars.
The menu component of Donald Smith’s Operation Phoenix was initiated in 1978 and led to the addition of the Burger King Specialty Sandwich line in 1979. The new product line significantly expanded the breadth of the BK menu with many non-hamburger sandwiches, including new chicken and fish offerings. The new Specialty Sandwich line was one of the first attempts to target a specific demographic, in this case, adults 18–34, who would be willing to spend more on a higher quality product. One of Smith’s other significant contributions to the menu was the addition of a breakfast product line, which until this time was not a market Burger King had entered. Besides the addition of the Croissan’Wich in 1983, the breakfast menu remained almost identical to the McDonald’s offerings until a menu revamp in 1985. This expansion introduced BK’s “Am Express” product line, which added new products such as French toast sticks and mini-muffins.
As the company expanded both inside and outside the US, it introduced localized versions of its products that conform to regional tastes and cultural or religious beliefs. International variations add ingredients such as teriyaki or beetroot and fried egg to the Whopper; beer in Germany, Italy, and Spain; and halal or kosher products in the Middle East and Israel.
A Burger King value meal
In order to appeal to as many demographic groups as possible and better compete with its competitor Wendy’s, Burger King added a multi-tiered value menu in 1993 with items priced at 99¢, US$1.99 and $2.99. The additions, part of then CEO James Adamson’s back to basics program also called Operation Phoenix, were an attempt to add not only a value menu, but also a line of value meals. The tiered menu was replaced with a more standard value menu in 1998 while the value meals were separated into their own menu segment. This value menu featured seven products: Whopper Jr., five-piece Chicken Tenders, a bacon cheeseburger, medium-sized French fries, medium soft drink, medium onion rings, and small shake. In 2002 and 2006, BK revamped its value menu, adding and removing several different products such as chili and its Rodeo Cheeseburger. Many of these items have since been discontinued, modified or relegated to a regional menu option. To better appeal to a more adult palate and demographic, BK introduced several new products to its menu in 2003, including several new or revamped chicken products, a new salad line and its BK Joe brand of coffee. Some of the new products, including its Enormous Omelet Sandwich line and the BK Stacker line, brought negative attention due to the large portion size, and amounts of unhealthy fats and trans-fats. Many of these products featured higher quality ingredients like whole chicken breast, Angus beef, and natural cheeses such as cheddar and pepper jack. Again, not all these products, such as the BK Baguette line, have met corporate sales expectations.
With the purchase of the company in 2010, 3G began a program to restructure its menu designed to move away from the male-oriented menu that had dominated under the previous ownership. The first major item to be introduced was a reformulation of its BK Chicken Tenders product in March 2011. Over the next few months, approximately 20 new products were researched and developed while others were reformulated, including its Chef’s Choice Burger. Eventually pruned down to 10 items, Burger King began deploying the items in the United States throughout 2011–2012 with the official roll out beginning April 2012. The changes included new ice cream products, smoothies, frappés and chicken strips. The Whopper was the most prominently reformulated product in this round of introductions with a new type of cheese and packaging.
At the end of 2015, Burger King’s parent company, Restaurant Brands International, announced that none of its subsidiaries would use chicken that had been fed antibiotics that are “critically important” to human health; that announcement referred only to a small class of antibiotics for which there is only one drug that kill a kind of bacteria and the announcement was described as a “small step” by advocates for stopping all antibiotic use in livestoc.