A burger and fries simply go together. They’re the Ernie and Bert of fast-food pairings; it’s nearly impossible to think of any other food accompanying a hamburger.
Perhaps that’s why McDonald’s (MCD) – Get McDonald’s Corporation Report has never struggled to keep in stock the apple slices it offers as a substitute for fries in Happy Meals. Few people want a burger and apple slices — that’s strictly for parents who take their kids to McDonald’s and want them to have a vaguely healthier experience.
A Big Mac and a Burger King Whopper more or less require fries as the side dish. And that’s become a bit of a problem in parts of the world where supply-chain issues have caused a shortage of potatoes.
McDonald’s earlier this year had to deal with this, and it took its large fries off the menu in certain countries. Call it french fry rationing, but the chain knew it had supply issues, so it took steps to stretch its limited quantity of potatoes and give the most people the popular side dish.
A number of fast-food chains worldwide have struggled with the potato shortage, with some following McDonald’s and limiting sales, while others have simply had to take french fries off the menu.
Now, Restaurant Brands International’s (QSR) – Get Restaurant Brands International Inc. Report Burger King has been hit by the potato shortage. And instead of rationing, it’s offering some interesting substitutes.
Burger King Offers French Fry Alternatives
When consumers opt for fast food, they generally want the full experience. That’s why McDonald’s no longer even has a salad on its menu.
Fries are an essential part of that experience, but if you don’t have enough potatoes you can’t make enough fries.
To combat that issue, Burger King has decided to do its best to recreate the french fry experience in its restaurants in Japan by offering what it calls its “almost-potato set,” a burger with a side of crunchy ramen noodles, the South China Morning Post reported.
The chain has also considered boiled ramen, grilled squid, and apple pie as french fry alternatives.
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Fried ramen has the same crunchy texture as french fries, and while it’s no substitute, the Japanese menu staple makes a lot more sense than a burger with a side of apple pie.
The potato-related supply chain issues have not affected the U.S., where a side of ramen probably would not fly with customers.
Burger King Looks to Make a Comeback
Burger King has slipped below Wendy’s (WEN) – Get Wendy’s Company (The) Report in the U.S. to become the No. 3 fast-food chain behind industry leader McDonald’s. That has led the company to invest in what it’s calling the “Reclaim the Flame” initiative.
“We’ve made good progress in our efforts to modernize and reposition the brand,” Restaurant Brands Chief Executive Jose Cil said during the company’s Q1 earnings call.
“Earlier this year, we announced our decision to put our creative account into review to improve the effectiveness of our messaging strategy, increase the returns on our advertising investments and modernize the Home of the Whopper,”
That’s a plan that mixes innovation and value.
“This quarter, we demonstrated our balanced approach to menu innovation and value for money while keeping our core equity, the Whopper, top of mind,” the executive said.
“We kicked off the year with a new $5 Have It Your Way Meal, featuring a Double Whopper Jr. In addition, in order to treat the Whopper as a powerful multibillion-dollar brand that it is, we removed the legendary burger from our core discount offerings and added some fan favorite variety, the Big King and quarter-pound King to our new two-for-five offer.
“This shift resulted in a win win: a more profitable lineup for our franchisees and a more compelling offer for our guests, with the shift from two-for-six to two-for-five.”
It’s hard to see where fried ramen fits into that plan, but Burger King has shown itself willing to be creative with its menu.
Essentially, given a bad situation, the chain went for unique, and that should help it work its way through the potato shortage while retaining its customer base — and maybe building toward a huge french fry comeback.