When Burger King introduced Grilled Dogs — you know: hot dogs — on Tuesday as a permanent menu items this week, the hamburger giant probably didn’t anticipate its weiners being dumped as interlopers, like bratwurst at an Italian festival.
But that’s what has happened. Not only were some initial reviewers and fans tweeting what most optimistically could be described as ambivalent responses to the Grilled Dogs themselves, a couple of other food brands concocted offended poses and declared marketing war on Burger King’s incursion into a new fast food segment.
BK is sticking to its dogs, which it’s selling as “The Whopper of hot dogs.”
“The introduction of Grilled Dogs just made sense to our guests and for our brand,” stated Alex Macedo, President, North America, for the BURGER KING® brand. “We’re applying over 60 years of flame-grilling expertise with the WHOPPER® sandwich to make Grilled Dogs the next great American icon.”
Burger King’s two new dogs consist of a regular hot dog with ketchup, mustard and relish for $1.99, and a chili cheese dog for $2.29. It makes a certain amount of sense for the chain to get into the hot dog market, given a few things: its “better-for-you” gambits lately, such as Satisfries, haven’t worked out that well; hot dogs fit handily into the convenience-food genre and are tremendously popular with Americans; and chief rivals McDonald’s and Wendy’s haven’t gone there, although a number of artisan hot-dog boutiques have.
And the brand has been supporting the Grilled Dog launch with some offbeat messaging and content that are worthy of its offbeat legacy, including using Snoop Dogg (of course) and Charo as spokespeople.
But as USA Today opined, “a lot of people are wondering why the king of the Whopper is selling hot dogs right now.” The newspaper went online with a number of uncharitable tweets about Grilled Dogs. Other media outlets have chimed in along the same lines.
And then 7-Eleven and Checkers & Rally’s drew a ketchup line on the table. Checkers & Rally’s said it was “smack[ing] down” the Burger King launch at $1.99 in part because it has been “cooking up hand-grilled hot dogs made with 100 percent beef for more than 30 years.” To underscore the point, the brand cut its hot dog price to 79 cents and the 800-unit chain took out a full-page advertisement in USA Today with the challenge that it was “time to compare wieners” and the hashtag #wienersmackdown.
“When Burger King made their announcement, we laughed,” said CMO Terri Snyder in a Checkers & Rally’s press release. “We’re engaged in a fun, aggressive and provocative Wiener War with Burger King.”
Meanwhile, 7-Eleven is promoting its own battle with Burger King by proclaiming a “Hot Dog Bill of Rights” that, among other things, hypes its customizable dogs by chiding Burger King for “the audacity to tell Americans how much chili and other toppings we can put on our hot dogs—and in an election year no less.”
The chain “is clearly America’s choice for hot dogs,” declared Dennis Phelps, 7-Eleven’s VP of fresh food and proprietary beverages. Burger King, nonplussed, is tweeting such messages as “it doesn’t have to make sense, it just has to taste good.”
Burger King has flame-grilled hot dogs now. It doesn’t have to make sense, it just has to taste good. #GrilledDogs
— Burger King (@BurgerKing) February 23, 2016