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When Burger King launched its new line of grilled hot dogs last month, Checkers/Rally’s declared a “wiener war.” And while it's not yet clear who is winning the "war," the strategy has proved to be a boon to Checkers/Rally's hot dog business, which has doubled.
“I think it’s a fun way to protect our business. We’ve been selling 100 percent beef hot dogs for 30 years. We’re very proud of the business and it’s an important part of our business,” says CEO Rick Silva. “Some of these guys are a lot bigger than we are, and they try to muscle into our space.”
Usually Checkers/Rally’s hot dogs are priced around $1, but throughout March the brand is selling them for $0.79, while also selling its chili dogs (usually $1.69) for $1.
Senior vice president and CMO Terri Snyder says the promotion is a tongue-in-cheek way to poke fun at Burger King, which is “late to the party and overpriced.” Even when Checkers/Rally’s hot dogs are normally priced, they are less than half the cost of Burger King’s dogs, Snyder adds.
“This is one of those opportunities for brands like ours that are more challenger brands in the category to take advantage of a major launch of a competitor and position the brand,” Snyder says. “From a social media perspective, we’ve had an amazing amount of impressions and coverage.”
A couple weeks ago, Checkers/Rally’s ran an ad challenging Burger King’s new hot dog line in USA Today, which Snyder says has helped drive engagement and double hot dog sales.
In addition to positive feedback from customers on and off social media, Silva says, franchisees have also expressed their support and excitement. Less vocal is Burger King, which has yet to address Checkers/Rally’s challenge.
“Whenever we go head to head with any of those types of brands, our product positioning—both in terms of flavor profile and value—wins hands down,” Silva says “We love these competitive positionings because we win consistently and our customers know that.”
Hot dogs do appear to be on the rise. Snyder says they’re not only a growing presence at convenience stores and fast food, but they’re also appearing in casual dining and even food trucks.
Silva adds that this hot dog renaissance could be due in part to Millennial eating trends.
“Millennials snack a lot—it’s not just big meals—and hot dogs fit that nicely. They’re also for value-conscious consumers for meals where they don’t have a lot to spend or don’t want to spend a lot,” Silva says. “The reality of our world is if it’s not relevant to the consumer … it’s not going to sell. And these products sell because it really fits the way people live their lives and it fits the way they’re eating”
By Nicole Duncan