Burger King offers spotlight to McDonald’s; KFC goes black in China; Cosi insiders find opportunity in the crash

McD’s gets help from an unlikely source: BK

At a time when McDonald’s can’t seem to buy sympathetic publicity, an opportunity has been served up by archrival Burger King. The Home of the Whopper has offered to collaborate on a warm-and-fuzzy publicity stunt, the joint launch of a limited-time product called the McWhopper.

The McWhopper—featuring six ingredients from Burger King’s signature Whopper and six from McDonald’s celebrated Big Mac—would be sold solely on Peace One Day, Sept. 21, a day devoted to ending hostilities across the globe. Burger King’s tongue-in-cheek rationale is that the longtime fast-food combatants set aside their “beef.”

The McWhopper would be the signature of a pop-up restaurant, an amalgamation of both brands’ trade-dress, in Atlanta, a city midway between McDonald’s headquarters in Chicago and Burger King’s main U.S. office, Miami. It would be staffed by a mixed team of McDonald’s and Burger King employees.

The offer is a brilliant bit of gamesmanship from Burger King. If McDonald’s refuses to collaborate, it comes across as the sort of operation that’d kick a puppy. If it does, it’s paying tribute to the idea of an archrival. Either way, the King’s crown becomes a halo. But maybe McDonald’s will take the bait and prove it truly is becoming a hipper, less conventional and more fun-loving brand.

McDonald’s has been coy to date. CEO Steve Easterland, referring to himself only as Steve in a Facebook post addressed to BK, suggested that the brands look to do something bigger to promote peace. “Perhaps you’ll join us in a meaningful global effort?” Easterbrook wrote. “We’ll be in touch.”

Burger King swears the offer is genuine. It has been running full-page ads in such media as The New York Times, and has set up a robust webpage devoted to the idea, McWhopper.com.

Said Easterbrook in his response: “A simple phone call will do next time.”

More mobile for McDonald’s

Meanwhile, the king (with a lowercase “k”) of the burger segment is upping its bet on mobile. A memo leaked on the internet directs McDonald’s managers to prepare their staffs for the rollout in the next few days of two new smartphone payment systems, one for Google’s Android devices and the other for Samsung handhelds.  The chain already accepts Apple Pay, so it will have the Big Three phone platforms covered.

The news came to light as McDonald’s is rolling out a new app that provides users with daily deals. The move actually drew bad publicity because the new app doesn’t allow patrons to order remotely, a fairly common feature in the business already.

Cosi insiders bargain-hunt in the market crash

Insiders took advantage of the stock market crash to buy up shares of the struggling Cosi fast-casual chain at dollar-menu prices. Shares were trading for as low as $1.07, from a high in January of $2.95.

The buyers included CEO RJ Dourney and directors Michael Collins, Patrick Bennett and David Lloyd.

The Colonel’s not the only thing at KFC getting a refresh

Burger King seems to be the template this week for chains in turnaround mode. The Home of the Whopper has drawn considerable attention for serving a Black Cheeseburger—a cheeseburger sandwiched between two buns dyed black—in Japan.

Now KFC is giving colored buns a try, though only in Asia at the present. Some franchised units in China are using a black bun for a spicy dark-meat sandwich, called in part the Black Diamond, and a pink roll for a version topped with cheese instead of bacon.

China remains a challenge for KFC parent Yum! Brands, with same-store sales across all its brands posting a 10-percent decline in the second quarter. KFC is a major player there. (Yum does not break out comps by brand for China.)

In the United States, KFC enjoyed a 3-percent gain in comps.

Z’Tejas auction set, problems revealed

A federal judge has officially set a deadline of Sept. 15 for bids for the bankrupt Z’Tejas casual chain, which will be auctioned off on Sept. 25. One offer is already public: An agreement from an investment group called Cornbread Ventures to buy nine-unit Z’Tejas and a secondary concept called Taco Guild for $2.3 million in cash and the forgiveness of $1.4 million in unpaid loans.

Court documents have revealed that Z’Tejas has run up total debt of about $9.3 million.

The brand was substantially owned by KarpReilly. It filed for Chapter 11 protection last month.


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