Burger King has long been the world's #2 hamburger chain after McDonalds, but years of under-investment had left it struggling in its rival's shadow by the early 2000s. Burger King arguably tasted better than McDonalds, but it lacked the latter's polish, administrative strength and marketing muscle. A deal was finally agreed in 2002 to free the chain from the portfolio of its then-owner, the drinks giant Diageo. Independent again for the first time since the 1960s, the #2 finally had the chance to give Big M a run for its money. Performance improved slowly but steadily between 2002 and 2010, enhanced by offbeat and unusual marketing aimed at Burger King's core young male market in North America. It has continued to specialise in more irreverent or daring advertising, often taking direct aim at its larger burger rival. In 2010, the business was acquired by investment fund 3G Capital, which vowed to ramp up the chain's previously uneven international presence. The group floated part of its equity again in 2012, and two years later agreed to acquire iconic Canadian coffeshop chain Tim Hortons for around $11bn. The enlarged group adopted the new corporate name of Restaurant Brands International. It added a third string to its bow in 2017 with the purchase of US chain Popeye's, which specialises in New Orleans-style chicken and shrimp dishes. BK is the world's 4th largest restaurant chain with 18,800 outlets by the end of 2019 and system sales of $22.9bn, up 6% year-on-year. Tim Hortons and Popeyes add another $6.7bn and $4.4bn respectively to the group total. However, virtually all outlets are franchised, so RBI's reported revenues for 2019 were just $5.6bn, with net income of $1.1bn. Daniel Schwartz moved up to co-chairman of RBI in 2019, alongside 3G director Alexandre Behring. José Cil, former president of Burger King, became group CEO. Axel Schwan is president, Tim Hortons; Felipe Athayde is president, Popeyes. 3G Capital remains the largest shareholder with 44% of equity, and is also the biggest individual shareholder in both in brewery giant AB InBev and food group Kraft Heinz.
Capsule checked 2nd September 2020
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Historical profile information for Burger King
Marketer Moves 22nd Oct 2021: New chief brand officer at RBI. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Update 27th Apr 2021:"Confusing Times". Burger King completely nails the many dilemmas we face as we emerge, blinking, into the harsh sunlight of a post-pandemic dawn. For example: are you just working from home...? Or living at work? There are many more brilliant absurdities to be relished in David Madrid's superb extended film for the Home of the Whopper. None more absurd than the fact that the new Impossible Whopper contains no meat but still tastes exactly like a Whopper. Truly a world-class piece of creative.
Adbrands Daily Update 10th Aug 2020: "Late Night Stores". Burger King once again shows itself to be one of the most daring of advertisers, managing to turn negative into positive, this time to promote its late night delivery service. This year's extraordinary 'Mouldy Burger' film demonstrated the gradual decomposition of a Whopper as proof that the chain uses no artificial preservatives, while previous press ads of restaurant outlets on fire were used to promote the power of the chain's flame grills. This time, the Sao Paulo office of lead agency David scoured the internet for user-generated footage of late night bad behaviour in BK restaurants: exactly the sort of thing any sensible customer would definitely want to avoid. What better argument could there be for a takeaway delivery?
Adbrands Daily Update 22nd Jun 2020: There were some significant changes in the ranking of America's biggest restaurant chains for 2019, even before the chaos being inflicted this year by Coronavirus. According to research from industry watcher NRN, US system sales for Subway took a sharp tumble, causing the sandwich chain to fall from 4th to 6th place. Taco Bell stormed up the chart to seize 4th place. Its near-9% jump in system sales represented an increase of almost $1bn in takings. Burger King moved into 5th place. Among the Top 20, there were year-on-year declines also for Applebee's and Olive Garden, while fast-casual Chinese brand Panda Express joined the Top 20 for the first time as a result of a 12% increase in sales. Popeyes, now owned by Burger King parent RBI, chalked up an impressive 18% leap to 19th place. McDonald's, Starbucks and Chick-fil-A held firm to the top three spots respectively.
Adbrands Daily Update 27th Dec 2019: "A Whopper of a Secret". Nobody loves a smartarse, but we suspect BBH London's end-of-year campaign for Burger King in the UK may collect a few awards at Cannes next year anyway. (Too often, these days, we feel that agencies spend more time thinking how about how clever they can be rather than how they can make a great ad). This latest meta-ad reveals that all the agency's previous ads for BK this year actually included a picture of a Big Mac, but it was obscured each time by the Whopper in front (with some additional help from the laws of perspective). Well aren't you the clever ones, BBH.
Adbrands Daily Update 21st Jun 2019: Interpublic's Grand Prix haul continued at Cannes with two top prizes to FCB on Wednesday, adding to the three already collected by McCann and Momentum, and then three more on Thursday. FCB New York collected its first Grand Prix of the festival for Direct with its cheeky "Whopper Detour" mobile campaign for Burger King. Another followed in the Mobile category. "Whopper Detour" also collected a third Grand Prix on Cannes' final day, in the prestigious Titanium category, making it the only campaign to win three Grand Prix this year. The agency created a GPS map of all arch-rival McDonald's 14,000 outlets in the US. When users of the Burger King app passed within 600 feet of one of those branches, they were sent a direct message offering a BK Whopper instead for just one cent, with directions to the nearest outlet.
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