20 Things You Didn’t Know about Burger King

Unlike other lists about Burger King you may find this one different as it includes members of the franchise from around the world. Not every Burger King is the same in its menu offerings (as you will see) and even the actual construction of the restaurant itself can be different. In fact, the company’s brand colors and logo can be the only way you can recognize that it is a Burger King in at least one country.

If you have never visited a Burger King in another country you may tend to think that they all have the same basic fast food restaurant problems: minimum wage employment, dissatisfied customers, or unhealthy food. But you will see that this is not always the case. Some food critics from other countries think BK’s offerings are even worse. So lean back and enjoy this international tour of 20 things you didn’t know about Burger King.

1. There is a BK offering known as the Suicide Burger.

It claims to be an unofficial menu item in Australia, but if you know what to ask for you can get a burger that has a body damaging 2430 milligrams of salt, 53 grams of fat, and a total of 800 calories. What you get on a bun to achieve this aim is 4 hamburger patties, 4 slices of cheese, several strips of bacon, and of course topped off with their special sauce. Likely not to be found in the United States to avoid attacks from health food advocates, if you are an outdoorsy person in the land down under it is reasonably possible you can melt off that fat and evaporate the salt by working outside for a few hours.

2. If you are in a Middle Eastern country you will find a few extra safety features built into the restaurant.

Never let it be said American businesses are not willing to go where no man has gone before. The 2002 war in Iraq brought some challenges to Burger King, who wanted to keep their stores in Oman, Qatar, Egypt, Bahrain, and Lebanon open. The problem was they were targets of bombings. So the Burger King solution was to install shatterproof glass in windows, ceiling tiles designed to absorb the impact of bomb shrapnel, and placed cement planters to minimize penetration by car bomb drivers. But the planters do have a nice selection of flowers.

3. Their staff sometimes will use unique accounting procedures.

This event happened in the United States – New Hampshire to be exact. A customer ordered a sweet tea and spicy chicken sandwich, drove up to the window, and was handed to bags that were filled with the day’s cash deposit. So the change back from the lunch meal was almost $2400. Being honest people, the woman and her husband opted to return the cash and for their honesty got a thank you and 5 free meals from the store. The total value of the 5 free meals was not revealed.

4. Not all accounting procedures pass through the window.

When it comes to American ingenuity, employees of fast food restaurants are more likely than any other industry to rob their own store. For example, two men wearing BK shirts and ski masks got away with robbing their own Burger King to the tune of more than $7000. One would think wearing a competitors shirt would offer some diversion to their identity, but since it seems to be common to hold up the place where you work it might be good for a viral video. Obviously the two were caught, and their total take ($7000 divided by 2) was less than they would have made just by working at minimum wage for 3 months.

5. Even managers want to make their presence known to customers.

Back in June 2013, a BK manager in New Mexico decided to resolve a customer’s complaint in a unique way. The customer complained about an order of cold onion rings he received, a common complaint when they have been sitting under the heat lamps too long. The manager was not happy about this apparent act of disrespect and took the customer to task by taking a switchblade in one hand and a taser in the other. After attacking the customer, who escaped relatively unscathed, he was arrested and a lawsuit was filed against Burger King. No word as to whether the manager was fired or the customer returned to the BK.

6. The company has strict customer rules taught during training on how to treat customers.

Among them is to smile, giving the appropriate greeting (apparently different based on where you live), make a positive first impression, and demonstrate with body language that you are glad to see them. Eye contact is an essential part of the initial greeting. After following this procedure there apparently are no guidelines about giving away the store’s cash through the window, attacking customers, or coming back to rob the store. Just sayin’.

7. Returning to the international scene, the end of the Iraq war brought the beginning of the first Burger King to the country.

The year was 2003, and the location decided upon was Baghdad’s International Airport. Now in 2003 there were still a large number of American troops in the country, so demand was high. How high? The store sold more than 5,000 burgers a day (no count of fries was available) and soldiers were known to wait two hours for an American favorite.

8. Operating the first BK in Iraq posed some unique problems for store management

Joe Petrusich (a good name to remember for this trivia question) was the store owner of this first Iraq Burger King and said that there were some unusual challenges he faced because the Iraq war wasn’t quite over. For example, Joe got calls from troops who were reporting certain bridges were blown up and they were unable to get their trucks through to get to the BK. So the next time you are inclined to complain about bad service, keep in mind at least you can get to the BK to complain about your order.

9. Even in Japan, food critics rail on the Burger King menu choices.

There is at least one Burger King in Japan, and they sell what is called a Premium Kuro Burger. Kuro is Japanese for “black” so the burger has black pepper and served on a black bun. Makes sense. Then they add block cheese and a sauce that is made from squid ink, which is naturally black. Japanese customers loved the burger and it became popular with everyone but the food critics. One critic called the burger “harrowing” explaining that the price of 480 yen (about $4.25 USD) was a tad too high for this fast food choice.

10. A few unknown corporate facts of interest.

Globally, Burger King ranks only behind McDonald’s and Subway as the world’s largest fast food franchises. As #3 on the list, it spreads itself out across 79 different countries and has planted some 13,000 stores that generate annual revenue of more than $2 billion. While the statistics says that the company employs 34,000 people, this number seems off because that would put only two people in each of the 13,000+ stores. Multiple shifts anyone?

11. Hungry Jack is the Australian brand name of Burger King.

This actually required a lawsuit to settle, but in 2001 a court ruled that the copyright to the franchise name that expired in the late 1990’s could continue to be used in Australia. Everything has a BK-likeness inside and out except for the Burger King name. So if you’re an American in Australia you want to look for the fast food restaurant that has the same name as the boxed pancake mix and maple syrup sold on American store shelves.

12. The company was once owned by the same people who own the Hungry Jack brand of pancake mix and syrup.

Sometimes life comes full circle in an odd way, even in the business world. Back in 1967 the brand was sold to Pillsbury, who then attempted to make Burger King a McDonald’s clone. The plan fell flat after the president who gave the idea momentum left the company. The company was then sold to Grand Metropolitan 1989, but it has since landed as part of the J. M. Smuckers brand that retains all the rights to the products, but not the Pillsbury name. All that can be said about this is that, in the end, Hungry Jack is actually a good name for an Australian food business.

13. Burger King actually did imitate some of McDonald’s products.

It’s not certain what the influence of the Pillsbury Incident had on the future direction of Burger King, but there are similarities in products that indicate originality was left at the back door. Is the Big Mac the forerunner of the Whopper? What about the Chipotle Chicken Wrap versus the McWrap? And to finish off the copied idea list there is BK’s sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich versus McDonald’s Sausage McMuffin.

14. The Sarah Michelle Gellar connection – Part One.

If you are wondering what Sarah Michelle Gellar has to do with Burger King, you are not the only one. The story is that she appeared in a BK ad that “attacked” McDonald’s stating it used 20 percent less meat in its burger products. We have heard of the pink slime, so there seems to have been some merit in the attack ad, the first of its kind in the fast food industry. Turns out that Gellar, who was all of 5 years old at the time, was included in the lawsuit. (Gellar was born in 1977.) Come on McDonald’s!

15. The Sarah Michelle Gellar connection – Part Deux.

The legal nonsense didn’t end there. As a result of the legal action, the 5 year old Sarah was informed she could not enter any branch of McDonald’s restaurant. It is not certain whether 5 year old Sarah actually wanted to eat at a McDonald’s, especially since Burger King was what helped her bring home the bacon. Since this fiasco there have been other actors who walked the legal tightrope and survived, including Ben Affleck, Meg Ryan, and Elizabeth Shue.

16. Facebook had to unfriend a Burger King app.

This took place before the Facebook controversy of recent memory. BK created a Whopper Sacrifice app in 2009 that gave a free Whopper to anyone who would unfriend 10 Facebook friends from their list. But in order to make the ad campaign more effective, the BK app sent notifications to the unfriended that they had been unfriended. Effective as a campaign, the numbers are that 82,000 people deleted at least 230,000 Facebook friends to get the free food. Alas, Facebook didn’t like the notification scheme too much and shut the app down.

17. There was a time when if something smelled like Burger King it might not be from buying their food.

In the spirit of Christmas, in 2008 the company decided to create and market a cologne for men what smelled like flame broiled meat smothered in barbeque sauce. Named “Flame” it sold for $3.99 a bottle. But it was a pilot program offered only in select cities. It didn’t end up as a best seller, and that was the last we heard from it. If anyone still has a bottle laying around it may have a value higher than the $3.99 you paid for it a decade ago. Maybe.

18. The original name of Burger King was Insta-Burger King.

This is not too far off the familiar name we see today, and considering it began back in 1953 the name actually has held up over the years. The original owners of the fast food joint started their business in Florida, but ran out of money – a problem common to new restaurant businesses. But the company was snapped up right away by two foresighted investors who dropped the Insta- part of the name that actually may have hurt sales.

19. The two people who laid the foundation of today’s Burger King brand were James McLamore and David Edgerton.

Both Edgerton and McLemore had franchise experience and saw the potential of the original idea. Based in Miami, they took Burger King to the next level, and while dropping the name they also would create Burger King’s trademark fast food – the Whopper. This is a lesson for budding entrepreneurs that there are good ideas out there that only need the right people and a better way to do it.

20. The company’s primary stakeholder is not an American or American company.

A Brazilian equity company, 3G Capital, is the actual majority owner of Burger King. They bought their share for $4 billion only 8 years ago. You may remember the controversial issue of tax inversions when Burger King was by the Canadian coffee chain brand Tim Horton, which caused a lot of the BK faithful to abandon ship over the company’s shady approach to paying their fair share of taxes. But the controversy has died down and the company has returned its focus to doing what it does best.


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