Burger King Evolves ‘Reclaim the Flame’ Investments
Burger King Corp., which a year ago unveiled its $400 million “Reclaim the Flame” initiative to turn around its U.S. quick-service business, plans to evolve the program in the second year with a new Sizzle store design and “You Rule” marketing efforts, said Tom Curtis, president of Burger King U.S. and Canada.
Curtis spoke Friday, a day after the Miami-based division of portfolio parent Restaurant Brands International Inc. had gathered franchisees and briefed them on progress in the “Reclaim the Flame” initiative, which was announced last September and aimed at updating advertising, digital platforms, technology, remodels and relocations to spur franchise growth in the United States.
“We all look at that first year as nothing but a good start,” Curtis said. “We did leave aligned with a belief and commitment that we need to be even more intense in year two.”
A successful turnaround takes time, he added.
“A real business success story is a decade-long story,” Curtis said. “It’s not a one-year, two-year or three-year story.”
Curtis said the “Reclaim the Flame” plan remained based on four pillars: marketing, execution, image and profitability.
“As we go into year two of Reclaim the Flame,” Curtis said, “it’s not about changing the pillars, but it is about amplifying and evolving some of the messages and some of the initiatives underneath the pillars.”
For example, Burger King plans to move beyond a Whopper-centric message in marketing to more on the smoky flavor of flame-grilling, he said.
‘What really sets us apart and differentiates us is ‘flame-grilled,’” Curtis said. “So flame-grilled is what you’ll feel and see more in the marketing communications going forward.”
The customization message will move more to the “You Rule” platform from “Have It Your Way,” Curtis added.
“We’re going to talk about combos your way,” Curtis said. “You can get your sandwich anyway you like it, but you can also get with your sandwich with onion rings or you can get French fries or you can get something we’re going to call halfies [onion rings and fries].”
Remodels remain among initiatives offered to franchisees, and the program — after planning in the first year — will start to show up streetside, Curtis said.
“A big part of the Reclaim the Flame plan was a $200 million investment in helping franchisees remodel,” he said. “And what we did last year was we signed our contracts with our franchisees. They got contractors to do the work. They started to get the permits pulled, but you really didn’t see that many projects coming out of the ground because all of that pre-work that has to be done. Now what you’re starting to see is an acceleration in the number of remodeled restaurants that are coming up out of the ground.”
At the franchisee convention that ended Thursday, Burger King unveiled a new Sizzle design format, Curtis said.
“The Sizzle design is extremely warm and inviting on the outside,” he said. “It’s very warm and inviting on the inside.” That also allows for digital additions, such as kiosks, which have been tested in the Miami restaurants. The design also minimizes steps for staff to assemble orders, Curtis added.
The Sizzle design is slightly smaller than the traditional Burger King, shaving 200 to 300 square feet of the prototype, he said. In addition, Curtis said, it is offered in 40-, 60- and 80-seat versions.
The original “Reclaim the Flame” plan was endorsed by 93% of franchisees, the company had said. Curtis said he suspected that had increased to 96% this year and they were expressing “a lot of optimism about the turnaround.”
Some of the new ideas will likely be deployed at units Burger King corporate picked up during the recent bankruptcy auction by franchisee Meridian Restaurants Unlimited LC in Utah.
“We need to lead the way,” Curtis said. “Our franchisees are going look to us.” The kiosk pilot was launched at company-owned restaurants in Miami, he noted. “We’re going to set the pace and set the example,” he said.
Curtis said he was most excited in year two of the initiative was “that franchisees and internal stakeholders are excited to execute and continue what we’re doing.”
Founded in 1954, Burger King as of June 30 had 18,935 locations in more than 100 countries and U.S. territories. Parent Restaurant Brands International also owns the Tim Hortons, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen and Firehouse Subs brands.