BK to Push Value Menu Minus Double Cheeseburger

But Chain Will Offer Pricey Item at Discount Through Coupon Effort

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Burger King may not be able to have everything its way, but it certainly tries.

After the fast-food giant lost two battles with its franchisees last week over whether to offer a double cheeseburger for a dollar on its value menu, the chain today said a major value push backed by national advertising would proceed for the fall, albeit with another sandwich.

Burger King's flagship Whopper Jr. sandwich.
Burger King's flagship Whopper Jr. sandwich.
"[Burger King] will be promoting its Whopper Jr. sandwich for $1 nationally in August and September," a Burger King spokeswoman said in a statement. But the Whopper Jr., which the chain calls one of its "flagship products," has been a standard component of the chain's value menu.

Yet despite its skirmish with franchisees, as part of the fall push Burger King will also send $50 coupon booklets to 80 million households. Each booklet will contain an offer for one double cheeseburger for $1.

By all accounts, offering a pricey double cheeseburger for $1 looked like a money-losing proposition for franchisees. But with the offer, Burger King gets to drive traffic to its stores while not upsetting its franchisees about an offer they long opposed: Franchisees fear that consumers will trade down over a period of time and never go back -- or that some customers will order two burgers rather than get fries, which have a higher profit margin.

(Two franchisees interviewed for this story said they believed the dollar double cheeseburger had previously been approved as part of a coupon drop but that it became financially problematic for a broader national offer.)

This announcement follows last week's battle royale between corporate and restaurant operators. Burger King asked the system to approve a four-month double-cheeseburger promotion for $1 before the July 4 weekend. On Monday, responding to blowback, it offered to tone down sexual content to its characteristically edgy advertising. But on Wednesday, franchisees voted down the cheeseburger promotion. The chain quickly asked franchisees to approve a six-week double cheeseburger promotion, and reiterated its commitment to lay off sex in its ads in a memo dated July 9. But by July 10, franchisees had voted the proposal down again.

Franchisees interviewed for this story said that corporate has since done a better job of handling their concerns. One franchisee said that recent announcements have "taken the edge off." In a video statement yesterday, Burger King told franchisees that the double cheeseburger had not gotten enough votes to pass, but that a previously approved fall coupon effort would proceed as planned.

But it also appears that some local markets have approved a double cheeseburger. The Burger King spokeswoman said the "Burger King system has also seen an increase in local media spend in support of the brand's significant value offerings that include the $1 Double Cheeseburger in many markets."

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