Friday, February 6, 2009

More news (and specifics) from BK

Burger King’s new Steakhouse XT (for “extra thick”) burger will be introduced region by region beginning this month, Burger King CEO John Chidsey said yesterday during a conference call with financial analysts. He also revealed that a multi-market test of ribs is about to commence.

Both items are prepared on BK’s new batch broiler, which apparently eliminates the necessity to cook one item at a time on the chain’s signature flame broiler. Because the traditional flame broiler has only one conveyor-belt track, each item gets the same cooking treatment. The new broiler has several tracks, with variable speeds, enabling some items, like a thicker burger or ribs, to get more cook time.

The batch broiler is currently in about 62% of the chain’s North American units, Chidsey said. The new equipment, he noted, also uses less electricity and gas.

When the new broilers were unveiled in 2007, executives said the devices use about half the energy of the equipment they replace. That yielded savings quantified back then at $600 per store per year. Presumably that payback is even higher today, given how energy prices have changed in two years.

In addition, technology experts have talked about a new generation of BK kitchen equipment that gives off less heat than what it would replace. With less ambient heat coming from the kitchen, a unit’s air conditioning system doesn’t have to chug as hard to maintain a comfortable temperature, yielding additional efficiencies. It’s unclear if the new batch broiler is among that batch of heat-retaining apparatus to which the experts were referring.

In trying to sweet-talk investors, Chidsey also disclosed that at least 20% of North American BK restaurants, or roughly 200 units, would be open 24/7 by the summer.

But the most astounding revelation was his off-hand remark about Flame, the Whopper-inspired cologne that was initially offered around the year-end holidays. It sold out within three days, Chidsey said.

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