Burger King toppled in France

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LONDON -- Burger King has admitted defeat in France. It is to close its 39 French restaurants, of which 23 are owned by franchisees, by the end of this year.

But it is not the supremacy of the country's world-famous cuisine that has caused the fall of this U.S. fast food operator. Burger King lays that accolade firmly at the door of its rivals McDonald's and the Belgian Quick, respectively Nos. 1 and 2 in France's hamburger fast food restaurant market.

"France is the only market where Burger King is the third player," says a company spokeswoman. "We really couldn't compete with these two and it became unprofitable for us."

But David Williams, senior vice-president and managing director for Burger King Europe, Middle East and Africa, says the company remains "committed to further developing the brand in [Europe]."

Resources will now be concentrated on the U.K., Germany and Spain - Burger King's biggest markets outside the U.S. - where "we have a significant presence and strong potential to grow the business effectively," Williams says.

Burger King has 973 restaurants in Europe and the Middle East. It has opened more than 300 new outlets in the past two years, representing a year-on-year growth rate of 20%.

A record 167 restaurants will open their doors by the end of the current financial year and a further 184 are planned for the year after, mainly in the U.K., Germany and Spain.

Eastern Europe is also an area for future development, however. The company currently operates eight sites in Poland and has struck an agreement with International Fast Food Corporation to open 50 outlets under the Burger King name.

Similarly, Kuwait has been identified as an expanding market for the brand: this year it signed a deal with Al Homaizi Foodstuff Company in which 25 of the Hungry Bunny restaurants were converted to Burger King.

Copyright July 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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