SILVER SPRING, Md. – This doesn’t look like Burger King. The brick facade and mood lighting inside smacks more of casual dining.
It doesn’t sound like Burger King. There’s a quiet whir of blenders crafting made-to-order smoothies with real strawberry, banana and mango pieces.
Nor does it taste like Burger King. Not when one of its three new salads is topped with tangy apple slices and dried cranberries, and covered in an apple cider vinaigrette. You can even get made-to-order frappés.
But this is Burger King, all right — with its crown off and its gloves on.
Burger King Monday will reveal a future that’s decidedly less focused on young, hungry guys and more culturally directed towards moms, families and Boomers. In the next 12 months, Burger King and its franchisees will spend about $750 million fixing the menu, revamping marketing, tweaking operations and updating the look of a chunk of its 7,204 U.S. stores. A vastly changed menu, with a record 10 new items, rolls out nationally Monday.
“This is the biggest change in scope in the history of the brand,” says Steve Wiborg, executive vice president and president of North American operations. “It’s the chain’s largest investment in a one-year time frame.”
USA TODAY was exclusively brought inside early to see the changes and discuss them with top Burger King executives. For Burger King, this may be a make-or-break moment. Never before has the 58-year-old chain rolled out 10 new products at once. But after more than a year of keeping mostly mum under new ownership and new leadership, Burger King says it now wants to update and vastly expand its product line.
The overriding question for BK: Is it too little, too late?
Absolutely not, insists Wiborg, who started as a Burger King crewmember at age 16 and eventually became one of BK’s largest franchisees. “Everything is focused on getting to be No. 1,” he says, in reference to McDonald’s, which has been blowing Burger King’s doors off. “For us to set our sights on any other number is not something I signed up for.”