Thursday, November 10, 2011

Enter the mid-tier burger

Faster than you can say “Forget 99 cents!,” two big fast-food chains are unwrapping burgers that could lure customers away from the low-priced choices that eased the brands through the Great Recession.

Call them mid-tier burgers, priced to fill the gap between each chain’s new premium choice and the smallest sandwiches on their respective menus.

Indeed, “mid-tier product” is the description Wendy’s uses for its W burger, which will be rolled out in December. “This is going out at a $2.99 price point,” new CEO Emil Brolick explained to investors yesterday. “One of the things we want to do is put a product out there that we think is going to encourage people to trade up. Perhaps those individuals that are purchasing [a] 99-cent item will trade up to this product.”

The lure, he said, is a strong flavor and a high-craft aspect to the burger, which has about “two, 2.5 ounces” of fresh beef.

That seems to be the same strategy Burger King is employing with its new BK Toppers line. The burgers are dressed with flavorings like Swiss cheese, mushrooms and barbecue sauce. They’re heftier than the W’s, with 3.2 ounces of beef, but will be priced at $1.99, according to franchisee Carrols Restaurant Group.

That puts it between BK’s regular and Mini burgers on the low-price end, and the new BK Chef’s Choice at the high end, with a price of $4.99.

The two giants aren’t alone in sandwiching mid-priced burgers between their bargains and their biggies. Carl’s Jr. recently added new Steakhouse burgers, arrayed on the menu between its Six Dollar Burger line (typically priced around $4) and its Famous Star singles.

Missing among the converts is the segment’s true king, McDonald’s. First in size as well as sales growth, it’s been relying with stunning success on its beverages and snack-type items, leaving its burger line-up largely untouched since the rollout of the Angus line.

1 comment:

deniseleeyohn said...

Not sure this strategy makes sense -- the middle is always a dangerous place to play, because it doesn't offer enough price value for those seeking deals nor enough quality value for those seeking something noticeably better.

Perhaps a smarter approach would be to scale back the high end burger option to a price point more compatible with QSRS -- QSRs are sure to lose the better burger battle against fast casual so they shouldn't try. Instead do what they do best -- a good burger at a good price.

-- denise lee yohn