Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Keeping up with BK's test kitchen

Burger King’s test kitchen has been such a hive of activity that it’s hard to recollect all the new or newly revised products that have recently moved beyond the test phase. Carrols Restaurant Group, the chain’s largest franchisee, provided a recap to its investors yesterday. Here are the highlights:

--A new, thicker cut French fry that’s being quietly rolled out. Quality Restaurants, another large franchisee, switched to the new sides a few weeks earlier. Carrols adopted the thicker cut in late October.

--Better bacon. The coarser-cut strips are delivered raw to stores and cooked on the premises so they’re a fresher garnish or breakfast side.

--The Chef’s Choice, a one-third-plus (5.5-ounce) premium burger with a price to match: $4.99. Although Carrols officials didn’t say it, the sandwich appears to be Burger King’s answer to McDonald’s one-third-pound Angus line.

--BK Toppers, a line of garnished, 3.2-ounce burgers priced as a middle option, at $1.99. The array fills the gap between the new BK Minis, the sliders that were introduced earlier this year, and the Chef’s Choice and Whopper.

--Soft-serve ice cream, introduced this summer as a loss leader (buy a meal, get one free; Carrols said it provided 100 free cones a day during the warmer weather.)

--Smoothies, which appear to be still in the refinement stage.

Carrols said it’s encouraged by the performance of the products it’s recently adopted. “We are optimistic and hopeful that as we move forward, Burger King will begin to regain market share, expand its customer base and experience sustainable traction in its performance,” said president/COO Dan Accordino, who’ll be taking over the burger operation when longtime CEO Alan Vituli retires at the end of the year.

Accordino didn’t acknowledge the menu change that made headlines this week, the rollout of new kids meals that bring back the chain’s giveaway crown, once a BK signature. The meals are available with apple slices instead of French fries, a counter to the health-oriented option that McDonald’s is currently adopting.

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