It's very rare for a chain to increase the size of a core product and not increase price. But the Big King, made with two beef patties, lettuce, onions and sauce on a three-layer sesame seed bun, will still sell for $3.69. It's also currently part of a two-for-$5 promo.
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"At Burger King, we know that size matters," says Alex Macedo, president of Burger King North America, in a phone interview. "This allows us to give even more value."
At least one industry consultant thinks that Burger King could be on to something—so long as it ultimately moves beyond mimicking McDonald's products. "It will drive some business," says Dennis Lombardi, executive vice president of food service strategies at WD Partners, a restaurant consulting firm. "Singles and bunts aren't so bad in our business."
But Burger King's Macedo says this is much more than a bunt. He says Burger King plans to expand its Big King platform with more innovation, though he declined to be specific. "We're testing a lot of things," he says.
When it recently tested the newly enlarged Big King burger at 200 restaurants in South Florida, guest satisfaction scores jumped more than 10 percent, he says. "Increasing the amount of beef makes a big difference."
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Executives at McDonald's declined to comment on Big King. But, spokeswoman Lisa McComb did note, "the Big Mac remains a beloved iconic menu item at McDonald's."
Big King's big differentiator from the Big Mac: fire-grilling. That's what Burger King will continue to stress in its advertising. But it's going up against the Holy Grail of burgers. Since it went national in 1968, the Big Mac is widely viewed as one of the most successful burgers in fast-food history. Even at the risk of converting some of its current Whopper customers into Big King fans, Burger King continues to heavily push its new burger.
But McDonald's is hardly ignoring the competition. While there are no national promotions for Big Mac at the moment, in some regional markets, the burger giant has recently offered special deals in which customers get a second Big Mac for a penny when they purchase one at the regular price.
—By USA Today's Bruce Horovitz