Last week, an investment firm bought South Florida-based Burger King Holdings, and hopefully the move signals an improvement in what has always been the fast-food industry's ugly burger stepchild.
So where does the new owner take Burger King now? Here are five ideas on how to remake the fallen burger royalty.
5. Build a Better Breakfast
The problem: Since the first Croissan'Wich in 1983, Burger
King has never come up with a breakfast item to compete with the Egg
McMuffin. BK got a lot of press when it released the Enormous Omelet Sandwich, a 730-calorie behemoth described by the normally docile Wikipedia
as "almost absurd." But it's more of a sideshow than serious food, a novelty meant
to bring in customers with a product that's simply not as good as
what's offered by competitors.
The fix: It isn't hard to find a better breakfast
sandwich. Take the ones at Starbucks. They sit around in a sneeze-proof
case, possibly for hours, until someone reheats them. Yet the English
muffins are still fresh. The eggs don't possess that plastic-like
texture of the mess from BK. And the cheese, well, it seems real. The
Starbucks version is no haute cuisine, but if they can serve up an
edible egg sandwich from a sneeze case, they ought to be able to do it
with a full Burger King kitchen.
4. Stores That Actually Look Like Burger Stands
Burger Kings have morphed over the past couple of decades from legit
burger stands into some amalgamation of fast-food franchises everywhere.
You might see rounded skylights in the front, roofs that jut at odd
angles, and doors that are hard to spot, somewhere on the sides. You'll
probably get a shaker-style roof that looks like the hat worn by Fat
Albert character Dumb Donald. But what you won't get is any idea that the place serves good food.
The fix: It isn't hard to make stores that look like the fry and shake shacks that started the
burger craze in the 1950s. Regional chains and even a few McDonald's
have tried this successfully, and what it creates is a fast-food chain
that actually looks good. Like it serves burgers.
3. Buy Some Halfway Decent Buns
Remember when sesame seeds were enough to make a bun special? Nowadays,
even Hardee's has a damned fine kaiser bun holding together its burger.
Meanwhile, Burger King's have the feel of a kitchen sponge. They're
surely prefrozen and lack even a hint of flour or yeast or anything
that ought to go into real bread.
The fix: Bake the buns in
the store. Instead of freezer space, buy a Subway-style bread rack.
Throw the buns in. Take them out. It can be done at Burger King if it
can be done by a "sandwich artist."
2. Actual Chicken
Burger King's chicken has always lived in an alternate reality, where
chicken patties are mealy and gummy and nuggets are stringy and oddly
shaped. Sure, it could be real chicken in there, but who can tell?
Real chicken breasts. Put them on that grill conveyor belt used for
the Whoppers. Batter them with a beer batter, and deep-fry them. What
you'd end up with would be a pair of great chicken sandwiches -- char-grilled
and a crispy deep-fried number. And they'd taste, finally, like chicken.
1. Fix the Fries
The problem: If you've had any other fast-food fries anywhere,
you know these don't compare. They're flaccid, tasteless, and greasy and
could be replaced with deep-fried anything without notice. If they
deep-fried the cardboard case they came in, there would at least be more
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The fix: Five Guys proved how to do this easily and cheaply. Buy
whole potatoes, cut them in the store, and fry them. It's really that
simple, and it's really not hard. You'd figure the King could muster a
few of his minions to cut potatoes.