CARS HOMES JOBS

Burger wars shifting to your doorstep

Thursday, December 20, 2012
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“Ewwww!” was Daughter No. 1’s quick response when I suggested she could help me with some research by ordering for home delivery from Burger King.

That’s right, a Whopper and fries delivered to your front door, site of what probably will be the next skirmish in the burger wars.

Burger King, bumped last year by Wendy’s from its long-held No. 2 spot among top hamburger chains behind McDonald’s, is testing home delivery in a handful of U.S. markets. The initiative started quietly in the Washington, D.C., area a year ago, moved to Burger King’s hometown of Miami in October and spread to Houston and New York City last month.

BK Delivers, as the program is known, offers ordering through a website of that name (or by phone) with home or office delivery from more than 50 designated Burger King locations; another dozen stores are marked “Coming Soon” on the site.

The program’s service area is a 10-minute driving radius of the participating restaurant, and a minimum order of $10 is required. (Burger King is helping that along with large-order “Delivery Deals” that include, for instance, 10 cheeseburgers and 20 chicken nuggets, or multiple combinations of its signature sandwiches with drinks and fries.) Delivery is expected in 40 minutes or less, according to Burger King.

In Miami, the chain has targeted Dade and Broward counties; in Houston, Harris and Fort Bend counties; in New York City, the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.

Alex Macedo, vice president of the U.S. franchise business for parent Burger King Worldwide, said the company was focused for now on those markets and could offer no timetable for when we might see the service in the Capital Region.

Since the program debuted, he said, “we have continued to test this service in hopes to bring the convenience across the United States.” And while the company is looking at “a number of markets” to expand the test, Macedo said he could offer “no specifics regarding the timing of a national rollout at this time.”

Burger King, like McDonald’s and KFC, already offers home delivery in overseas markets, where city density and expensive real estate make drive-through restaurants too costly. Macedo said his company “has had great success … in some amazing countries,” including Turkey, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Peru.

But while McDonald’s sees a role for home delivery in its growth strategies for Asia, the Middle East and Africa, at home the focus is on drive-throughs, where the Wall Street Journal reported the chain gets two-thirds of its sales.

Burger King was willing to give home delivery a try here once it came up with the packaging and handling to keep cold items cold and hot items hot. Whoppers are delivered in a chambered package that segregates the tomato, lettuce and top of the bun from the hamburger patty and bun bottom; the chicken for Caesar salads is packaged separately in a thermal wrapper, and the fries go into vented boxes meant to keep them crisp.

Maybe soggy fries came to mind when Daughter No. 1 texted her “Ewwww!” to my request for help.

But as luck would have it, she lives a bit outside the delivery radius of the participating Burger Kings in her Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C.

I’d hazard a guess, though, that that barrier won’t stand for long. If we can get home delivery of pizza, groceries and dry cleaning, why not hamburgers?

Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily those of the newspaper. Reach her at marlenejkennedy@gmail.com.

 
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