Burger King's Whopper-Sized Remake: Five Ways to Save Fast Food's Ugly Stepchild

Categories: Food News
bk breakfast sandwich.jpg
This is not what's for breakfast.
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
bk omelet sandwich.jpg
Photos from Flickr
The "absurd" sandwich.
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
If you didn't know this was a Burger King, could you tell what it sells?
The problem: 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
The Whopper isn't what it once was.
The problem: 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
bk chicken sandwich.jpg
What animal is shaped like that?
The problem: 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?
The fix: 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
bk fries.jpg
The fries might actually be softer than the ketchup.
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 texture.
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.

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