This is it, Burger King? This is what you're bringing to the (yellow plastic) table? While the other fast food giants are positively raking it in with inspired strokes of fast food mashup genius, while Carl's Jr. makes ice cream sandwiches out of Pop Tarts, while Dunkin' Donuts serves breakfast sandwiches on bisected glazed donuts, and while the Doritos Locos line has made Taco Bell the most successful restaurant in history*, THIS is what you roll out to generate a buzz?
*Not all facts presented can be tied to actual facts.
“French Fry Burger” from Burger King
The Pitch: “A value menu item that combines fries into the meal priced at only $1. Savory flame broiled beef patty topped with crunchy BURGER KING® French fries, crisp lettuce, ketchup and creamy mayonnaise all on a warm toasted sesame seed bun.”
Available: Now through Fall.
If you couldn't navigate the hopelessly complicated recipe that Eric Hirschhorn, Chief Marketing Officer just laid out, we'll help explain: It's a little hamburger with four french fries laid on top of it, then buried in hot iceberg lettuce and mayonnaise (Burger King's signature finishing move). It's an item that must make a ton of sense to the Burger King number crunchers: Take ingredients already available at the chain, smush them together in some vaguely new way, take intentionally blurry Instagram photos to generate Internet buzz, and profit!
Viewed another way, it's also potentially a sign that the company has completely run out of ideas, and is turning to only the most inventive preschoolers for new burger suggestions. When we imagine Burger King as a person, instead of as a massive multinational corporation with billions in profits, the King is always left just shuffling up the road by himself, crown askew and held together by white medical tape, listlessly kicking at an old tin can, while Wendy and Ronald ride away on shiny new bikes. “Hey guys, wait up,” he calls, “I just had this totally brilliant idea to put frozen onion rings on our Whoppers. No, it's cool, never — HEY NO SPITTING!”
These all feel like old ideas, which is becoming a problem for Burger King, which has now slipped to third place behind McDonald's and Wendy's in the fast food wars. The last time the company was a part of any national conversation was the LAST time they resurrected an old idea, in the form of the creepily-brilliant 2005 “Wake Up With the King” campaign, which was itself a twist on an idea the company had already explored in the 1970s and 1980s. Other recent “innovations” are even less inspired, including the nationwide roll-out of sweet potato fries, “Buffalo” chicken strips, and a McDonald's McRib knockoff. Revolutionary, these menu items aren't.
So how does this sad little also-ran of the burger world taste?
The hamburger itself is small, on a poppyseed bun, loaded up with lettuce, ketchup, and mayonnaise, and of course, those four little french fries. The burger itself isn't necessarily bad, especially when you focus on how few food options a dollar will actually buy you these days. The fries aren't much of a factor in terms of taste or texture, offering only a few extra ticks of caloric energy in exchange for your hard-earned dollar.
It's certainly better, however, than a freezer-burned Tina's “Red Hot Beef” burrito, a package of ramen noodles cooked without the flavor packet, or a worthless piece of fruit. It's just hard not to feel a little bit more depressed, when it's all over, than you were when you started.