NEW YORK – Burger King unveiled two versions of the item -- a classic and a chili-cheese dog -- at a private event Tuesday. One executive called the hot dog the biggest launch since the 1970s, when the company introduced its chicken sandwich. The "Grilled Dog" will be available starting February 23rd.
"We've worked to bring guests a hot dog that tastes like backyard barbeque," said Alex Macedo who leads the company's unit in North America.
Burger King started experimenting with hot dogs in five cities last year, and decided to go nationwide after those sales exceeded targets, said Macedo, who declined to provide additional details. Settling on standard toppings for the classic dog presented a challenge because of local and regional preferences. Burger King ultimately decided on relish, chopped onions, mustard and ketchup.
At $1.99 and $2.29 for the classic and chili-cheese, executives were also watching to see whether hot dog sales cannibalized higher ticket items like Whoppers and Chicken Sandwiches.
But it looks like customers are just adding hot dogs onto their regular orders, according to Macedo. "The average check with a hot dog was higher than the average check without a hot dog," he said.
Macedo emphasized that Burger King is sticking to its roots as a fast-food restaurant, rather than trying to imitate fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle and Panera, he said. In other words, it's not trying to get too fancy -- perhaps a dig at McDonald's, which toyed with menu changes and new ingredients like kale. The company even tested table service in some markets.
By serving hotdogs in all 7,100 US stores, Burger King pits itself directly against Sonic. The drive-in chain sells 12 different kinds of hot dogs, including the Footlong Cheesy Bacon Dog and the New York Dog. Burger King thinks it has a leg up because it's hot dogs are grilled instead of boiled.
To launch the new menu item, Burger King is planning a major advertising campaign across social media and television. But it decided against holding an official hotdog eating contest.