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Published on May 23rd, 2015 | by PEM

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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Burger King

There are about 13,000 Burger Kings in operation around the world.

Burger King: The Home of the Whopper. This mega-burger chain has locations all across the globe and has seen a lot of ups and downs in its day. It’s also never been afraid to jump into the fray (instigating the famed “Burger Wars” of the 1980s) or to get a little weird (we’ll never be able to get that bizarre “King” mascot out of our heads). But even though you may be familiar with BK and its occasionally wacky ways, we bet that there’s a lot you didn’t know about this legendary company.

Burger King was founded in the 1950s by entrepreneurs James McLamore and David R. Edgerton, based on an earlier chain. They oversaw a rapid expansion until 1967, when the company was sold to Pillsbury. Pillsbury shepherded Burger King through two turbulent decades: They brought in a McDonald’s executive to turn things around with a 1978 restructuring plan called Operation Phoenix, launched a series of attack ads against its competitors in the early 1980s that came to be known as the Burger Wars, and dealt with a major decline in sales and new construction in 1989. Pillsbury sold the company off to a British entertainment conglomerate called Grand Metropolitan in the same year. Sales continued to lag through Grand Met’s merger with Guinness to form Diageo in 1997, and eventually Diageo sold it off to a group of investment firms led by TPG Capital in 2002.

These new owners took the company public (a move that only lasted for four years), launched new products and funky ad campaigns like Subservient Chicken (a website that allowed you to give “commands” to a man in a creepy chicken costume) and opened new restaurant concepts like the kiosk-style Whopper Bar. Several profitable years ensued. Eventually, sales started declining again, and last year Burger King merged with Canadian chain Tim Hortons, with backing from Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, in another effort to turn the fast food icon around. It can be safely said that keeping Burger King’s head above water has been an ongoing struggle for decades.

Today, there are about 13,000 Burger Kings in operation in the United States and in 100 additional countries. This number comes in at a distant second place to its closest competitor, McDonald’s, which has about 35,000 outlets worldwide. While it may never catch up to the Golden Arches (which is dealing with some serious problems of its own), Burger King has held its own and will probably continue to do so for a long time. Read on for 10 things you didn’t know about America’s second-largest burger chain.

It Was Inspired by McDonald’s

Burger King’s first incarnation was founded in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1953, after a man named Keith Kramer and his wife’s uncle Matthew Burns visited a little burger shop in San Bernardino called McDonald’s that turned out burgers, fries, and shakes in record time. They purchased the rights to a newfangled broiler that could cook 12 patties simultaneously and opened a burger shop of their own.

It Was Originally All About the “Insta”

The name of that magical broiler was called the Insta-Broiler, and the chain was originally called Insta-Burger King. The “Insta” prefix was removed after the company failed in 1959 and was purchased by its Miami franchisees, James McLamore and David R. Edgerton, who expanded to 250 locations by 1967.

There’s a Burger King in Mattoon, Ill., That Has Nothing to Do with the Chain

Burger King wasn’t exactly an uncommon name for a burger joint when the chain was attempting to expand, which landed them in some serious pickles. For example, when Burger King opened 50 locations in Illinois in the 1960s, the owners of an existing restaurant in the small town of Mattoon (who had trademarked the name Burger King in the state) sued them in what turned out to be a landmark case that’s still studied in law school. The case ended up going all the way to federal court, where it was decided that, because the corporation had a national trademark but the family-owned Burger King was just trademarked in the state, Burger King was allowed to open anywhere they pleased as long as it wasn’t within 20 miles of the Mattoon restaurant. To this day, there’s a Burger King in Mattoon that has no affiliation with the chain. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons Click Here to See More of the 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Burger King d
It’s Called Hungry Jack’s in Australia

When Burger King was angling to get into the Australian market, they faced a similar situation: An existing restaurant in Adelaide had already trademarked the name, and wasn’t budging. So parent company Pillsbury provided franchisee Jack Cowin with a list of names that the company had already trademarked, and he chose Hungry Jack, the name of Pillsbury’s pancake mix. To this day, all Australian Burger Kings are called Hungry Jack’s. Photo Credit: Shutterstock
A ‘Male-Oriented’ Strategy Backfired

Remember the oddball proto-viral campaign Subservient Chicken and the creepy “Wake Up with the King” commercials? Those were all part of a concerted effort in the early- to mid-2000s to appeal to the male 18-to-24 demographic. The new products released to help get young guys through the doors included the Enormous Omelet Sandwich, which contained 730 calories and 45 grams of fat (17 of them saturated) and the Meat’normous Sandwich, which was even unhealthier. The BK Stacker, which was introduced in 2006, came with up to four patties. These items received a lot of negative press due to their insane calorie counts, and when the company was purchased by 3G in 2010 this strategy was discontinued. The giant sandwiches were replaced by less “male-oriented” items, like chicken tenders and smoothies. Photo Credit: Flickr/ Mark H Click Here to See More of the 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Burger King d
Burger King Delivers in 14 States

Want delivery? Burger King is testing out delivery in 14 states: You can order online and have your meal driven to your door in specially designed boxes intended to keep the food hot. Photo Credit: Bkdelivers.com
It’s Time-Consuming and Extremely Expensive to Open a Franchise

If you’ve thought about opening a Burger King franchise of your own (and really, who hasn’t?), all you’ll need is $1.5 million in net worth, $500,000 in liquid assets, a $50,000 franchise fee, and the time to complete 84 days of classroom training and seven weeks of in-restaurant training. Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com


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