Corporate Eye

Burger King Whopper Bar Aims to Redefine the Brand

burger-king-the-kingWhen you think of Burger King, do you think of cheap, greasy, fast food?  Burger King hopes to change that perception with the new BK Whopper Bar where the tagline, “have it your way,” is being taken to a whole new level.

The first of what will become a chain of BK Whopper Bars opened at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida this month (check out the pictures from the Orlando Sentinel theme park blog here).  According to the press release, the new bars are intended to take the “fast food” brand image out and replace it with a more gourmet appeal:

“Elevating the HAVE IT YOUR WAY® brand promise to new heights, the WHOPPER™ Bar restaurant embodies the power of personal choice by offering guests a customizable, premium and indulgent WHOPPER®-based menu.”

But wait, there is more to this brand re-definition than just dressing up the interior ambiance of a traditional Burger King location.  Here is more from the press release:

“Sandwiches are built to order by an expert “WHOPPER®-ista” from the WHOPPER® Topper, a visible toppings theater that allows guests to choose from favorites like A.1.® Thick & Hearty steak sauce, smoked bacon, Angry onions and guacamole.

“Capitalizing on America’s favorite burger, the WHOPPER™ Bar is a completely new, enhanced spin-off concept of the traditional restaurant with a crisp, modern, bar-like look and feel that utilizes the WHOPPER® sandwich’s flame-broiling as inspiration. Crew uniforms will be transformed, emphasizing the red, black and gray color scheme of the bar setting, and boast a more contemporary cut that matches the look and feel of this bold new approach. Even the product packaging is all new. The sandwich will be served in an upgraded, carton-like box – a necessity when it comes to holding as many additional toppings as guests wish to add.”

But the new twist on the Burger King brand doesn’t stop with an attempt at creating a higher-end restaurant.  There’s also merchandise!  From the press release:

WHOPPER® fans looking to take home a piece of the WHOPPER™ Bar can also pay a visit to the highly-engaging BURGER KING Studio kiosk. There, guests can create customized t-shirts using original designs by young, cutting-edge artists who were inspired by the BURGER KING® brand and have them printed on-site.

“Part art gallery, part creative laboratory, BURGER KING Studio first hit the underground scene in Chicago last fall. The outpost at Universal CityWalk® marks the next stage of the concept, which Burger King Corp. makes available via an interactive Web site, Whether on-site or online, BURGER KING Studio encourages free-flowing creativity, ongoing dialogue with artists, and embodies the ultimate expression of the HAVE IT YOUR WAY® philosophy with an urban edge. The vision for BURGER KING Studio includes satellite and live installation events aimed at building local affinity for the streetwise gear and a robust line of wearables and lifestyle gear. The company plans to feature these designs in urban boutiques and niche stores.

“For more information on the WHOPPER™ Bar consumers can explore, and to learn more about BURGER KINGSM Studio, visit “

So what do you think?  Sounds like an attempt to copy McDonald’s not so successful Bistro brand redefinition initiatives from a couple of years ago.  While not a failure, that program certainly wasn’t as successful as McDonald’s had hoped.  What makes Burger King’s attempt different?  McDonald’s has also been launching locations that have more of a Starbucks-feel (not unlike Burger King’s new “Whopper-istas”) complete with tables for business meetings.  So far, the only people I’ve seen at my local McDonald’s sitting at those tables and having a meeting have been McDonald’s employees. 

Burger King plans to roll out BK Whopper Bars around the world (there is one coming to Munich, Germany soon).  Do you think they’ll be a success?  Can Burger King redefine its brand image through BK Whopper Bars and Burger King Studios?  Or does it take a lot more than an exterior facelift to redefine a brand?  I vote for the latter.

Image: Flickr

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.

“Whopper-ista”??? Which genius thought that up? People get fast food because it’s quick and cheap. Just be consistent with the quality, service and keeping the restaurant (including the bathrooms) clean; that’s all that we ask…

I hate, hate, hate the McDonalds lounges. They seem to offer fewer menu selections, I don’t need a Latte’ and I don’t feel any more specially treated at one than I do a regular McDonalds.

You don’t have to make me feel special, just provide fast food at a reasonable price, get my order right 75% of the time and pleasant service once in a while might be a nice change.

your last commercial was terrible. I am offended . I do not like the way our country is headed. The square butts were ridiulcus. What will happen to our children? Please help

Hi Scott and John – thanks for commenting.

Scott – I haven’t been to a McDonald’s lounge. In fact, I haven’t heard of them – are they US only? Are they for ‘VIP’ customers?

John – I understand your concern.

I found the commercial recently via YouTube (again, I haven’t seen it publicly here in the UK, but perhaps I don’t consume enough offline media to catch it, or perhaps it hasn’t arrived here yet).

Speaking personally, it seems to me inappropriate for the audience, which I’m guessing is families with young children. I believe it has generated some negative publicity for Burger King.

If you’d like to raise your concerns directly with Burger King, their contact form is here: Burger King contact form. We aren’t associated with Burger King in any way here at Corporate Eye.

why doesnt BK have email? or feed back forms? How can they be responsive to todays public?
The burgers used to be flame broiled with crispy edges, black lines, and smoky flavor. Now they are grey, almost flavorless and almost like they were boiled. Yesterday i got a barely thawed one that was still pink. yuck. I eat at burgerking prob twice a week but this is getting bad.
Forget the give aways. go with good food.

Hi David

A barely thawed burger does sound unpleasant.

I’m assuming that you’re based in North America? I’ve found this Contact page for you on the Burger King site: Burger King contact form. We aren’t associated with Burger King in any way here at Corporate Eye.

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