Burger King is introducing the Chicken Big King, a further evolution of the Big King burger it unveiled last November and then increased in size in February. The new sandwich's build remains the same as with the previous two iterations -- with lettuce, pickles, onions, American cheese and King sauce on a three-layer, toasted sesame-seed bun -- just with two of the crispy chicken patties it uses for the Rodeo Chicken Sandwich on its King Deals Value Menu. The only build change is that three bun faces get a schmear of sauce, rather than two as with burgers, to keep the chicken moist.
The original and bulked-up Big King burgers were priced at $3.69. The Chicken Big King (above) comes in under that at $3.59. The sandwich will be included in Burger King's ongoing "2 for $5" promotion. "That has been very good for us," Alex Macedo, Burger King North America president, told BurgerBusiness.com in an interview. "It has been a way for us to bring product news and product innovation to consumers at good value."
TV advertising support launches on Saturday (4/19) when the sandwich begins rolling out to Burger King stores. Macedo said a multi-faceted digital-media push for the Chicken Big King will debut in a few weeks.
And before the gripes that the Chicken Big King is like McDonald's Big Mac or a clone of KFC/Canada's double-decker Big Boss sandwich, understand that Macedo and Burger King don't care about "copycat" calls. Why not use a good idea? "There's no point in not offering your guests something they like and appreciate," he said. "With the Big King we took a familiar platform and we serve it with the fire-grilled taste everyone loves about Burger King. Sales have been strong, which tells us it was a good thing to offer to our guests."
"And with the Chicken Big King, we're taking that platform and innovating on it. [The double-decker sandwich] is a widely known platform that has been relatively dormant over the past few years," Macedo said. "We brought in the Big King and that created a lot of excitement. Now we're bringing a second round with the Chicken Big King."
Using the Rodeo Chicken patty is consistent with Burger King's strategic shift last year to introducing fewer new products and to simplifying kitchen operations. "This year, basically, we have introduced only four new products and we have done that with just one new SKU, the spicy chicken patty. A year ago we were introducing a bunch of [new] products with a lot of new SKUs and it was very confusing for our restaurant teams. It was difficult for our franchisees to manage profitability. We took a few steps back and tried to be more creative with on-hand ingredients and that's what we're doing here."
That, he says, has improved store operations by adding efficiency and cutting waste. "Despite the weather challenges that everyone has had, we're seeing increased profitability for franchisees, which is our ultimate goal."
The Chicken Big King was tested in 100 Burger Kings in Indiana. "What the consumer told us was, 'Wow. So obvious. How come it's never been done before?' Just with point-of-purchase marketing, consumers understood exactly what they were getting [with the Chicken Big King] because they know that build," said Macedo. "If we have the same success [nationally] with the Chicken Big King that we had in test, we're in a really good place."
To be fair, the idea has been done before, if not in the U.S. McDonald's has offered a chicken version of its Big Mac as a limited-time special in several markets -- especially in the Middle East and recently in Dubai -- over the past several years. And KFC has the double-decker Big Boss chicken sandwich in Canada.
The triple-bun burger dates to Bob Wian and Big Boy restaurants in 1937. McDonald's franchisee Jim Deligatti created the Big Mac in 1967. The Big Mac was untouched until 2009, when McDonald's Canada operation deconstructed it for the Mac Snack Wrap. That innovation came to the U.S. the following year.
In 2012, McDonald's Germany created a Bigger Big Mac, 45 percent larger than standard. France last year copied that with Le Grand Mac. McDonald's Japan introduced the four-patty Mega Mac last year and the chain's Australian operation came up with a single-story Angus Mac.
McDonald's has not messed with the Big Mac much in the U.S. When the chain used that Big Mac's "special sauce" on this year's Bacon Clubhouse burger, that alone raised some eyebrows among aficionados.