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Burger King is going to the dogs. Thankfully, they are flame-grilled hot dogs, a classic American staple that the company developed and tested over the last year and a half.
"This is probably the most obvious product launch ever," says Alex Macedo, Burger King's president of North America, at a press event in New York City on Tuesday. "I think the difficulty is in trying to keep it simple and aligned with the essence of the brand."
Macedo believes that introducing the Grilled Dogs, which will appear in more than 7,000 units around the country starting February 23, is the most important thing the 62-year-old company has done since introducing chicken to the menu in the 1970s. He points to the fact that 20 billion hot dogs are served in the U.S. every year, and that the market is growing.
There will initially be two dogs introduced: the Classic and the Chili Cheese. Both will be served on a fresh bun in the classic hot dog sleeve consumers know. While Macedo acknowledges that the idea of a classic dog can vary from city to city around the country, Burger King has picked essential condiments: relish, chopped onions, mustard, and ketchup.
He stresses that the Grilled Dogs will be a core item and not a value menu item. In addition, they will be made of 100 percent beef of very high quality. The dogs will be $1.99 for the Classic build and $2.29 for the Chili Cheese. Customers will be able to customize their dogs like burgers.
The Miami-based Burger King tested Grilled Dogs in five cities last year: Salt Lake City, Memphis, Baltimore, Detroit, and Kansas City. During the testing, the company discovered that "the average check with a hot dog was higher than the average check without a hot dog," Macedo says. "For our industry, that's a really big deal and a good statistic."
The item also drove new tickets, but whether it was driving more new guests has yet to be pinpointed, Macedo says. Consumers always ordered Grilled Dogs with fries, and often with milkshakes.
To get its 250,000 team members across the country stoked for the new dogs, Burger King is generating training videos with guest speakers: Snoop Dogg for the English-language versions, and Charo for their Spanish-speaking counterparts.
"I've gotten a few questions about operations: Is this difficult? Is this simple?" Macedo says. "After a couple of weeks, we saw that the team members could build a hot dog just as fast as they build a Whopper. In the beginning, it's a bit [of a] different movement, but after 10 days, after selling as many as we do, it becomes very, very natural. The cooking method is exactly the same as the Whopper, and that's what makes it so delicious, because it's flame-grilled over an open flame."
Burger King will be blitzing consumers with ads via TV, digital, social media, and other media avenues to get the word out about the Grilled Dogs, which Macedo says will be the only widely distributed hot dogs in the country that are flame grilled. "It tastes like a backyard barbecue," he says.
"The Whopper is America's favorite burger, and we want this to be America's favorite hot dog," Macedo says. "It's a really good deal, and we couldn't be more excited."