Rib-mania

by Bryan Salvage
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At a time when consumer appetites are drawn toward not only the best values but also healthier alternatives, one of Burger King’s latest menu offerings flew in the face of recent quick-service restaurant trends and consumer response was overwhelming. Specially designed broilers worked overtime earlier this year to satisfy a staggering amount of orders for its BK Fire-Grilled Ribs, which debuted May 17. By the end of this limited-time offering, Burger King Corp. said more than 10 million ribs were sold, which exceeded all expectations.

“We are proud to be the first national fast-food hamburger restaurant to serve bone-in ribs and are pleased that they’ve been a big hit with our guests,” said John Schaufelberger, BK’s senior vice president of global product marketing and innovation. “Their popularity proves that guests are hungry for authentic ribs at a competitive price point.”

Served with a side of barbecue sauce, the ribs were available in three sizes. The new offerings were available for value-conscious customers in three- and six-piece serving sizes at a suggested retail price of $2.99 and $5.69, respectively. They were also available as an eight-piece order for a suggested retail price of $7.19.

Although priced significantly higher than most fast-food offerings, the larger portions sold well. “We began to run out of the packaging for the larger portions within the first few weeks,” Schaufelberger told Time magazine writer Josh Ozersky.

Proprietary technology
The popularity of the ribs, which were reportedly supplied by Tyson Foods, resulted in a supply shortage and ultimately caused the limitedtime promotion of the products to be cut short by several weeks.

“The BK Fire-Grilled Ribs were a first-of-its-kind product offering that we were able to bring to our guests as a result of our new gamechanging broiler,” a BK spokesman said. “Because of this proprietary cooking technology, that creates juicier, flame-fresh menu favorites, we’ve been able to up the ante in our product development across the menu. Both in test and throughout the nationwide promotion, we received positive feedback on the authentic, fall-off-the-bone pork ribs.”

In February, Burger King restaurants nationwide were equipped with specially designed broilers; it called this new equipment “the heart of Burger King restaurant kitchens.” Supplied by two manufacturers, the broiler features proprietary technology that allows restaurants to enhance the brand’s famous flame-fresh taste and provides the flexibility necessary to serve a wider range of innovative, fire-grilled foods like the ribs.

“This new broiler is a game-changing piece of equipment and a significant point of differentiation for us,” Schaufelberger said. “Not only is the technology revolutionary to our industry, it is proprietary to the Burger King brand. It allows us to up the ante in our product development across the board – from superior quality food and unconventional menu innovations to even more competitive value offerings.”

In addition to advancing the entire cooking process, one of the proprietary systems supports energy efficiency by reducing gas consumption in Burger King restaurants by 52 percent and electricity consumption by 90 percent compared to systems of the past. As of Feb. 1, all company restaurants in the U.S. and Canada had installed the new broiler and its rollout to international markets is expected to be completed later this year.

Unique new products mix
Burger King executives were confident in the BK Fire-Grilled Ribs, but they were pleasantly surprised by their customers’ enthusiasm and seemingly insatiable appetite for the product.

When asked if the ribs could find their way onto Burger King’s permanent menu, the spokesperson replied, “While we can’t elaborate on our future menu offerings, we are continually looking to provide a fresh menu lineup that strikes a balance between new product innovation and core menu items.”

Burger King CEO John Chidsey said in his company’s secondquarter earnings statement Burger King’s future menu mix would continue to include value items as well as “offerings with a strong, indulgent product pipeline that includes Steakhouse XT, ribs, stuffed burgers, chicken and others.”
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