Burger King franchisees weren't "satisfried" with Satisfries. So, they're off the menu.
Only 2,500 of the approximately 7,400 Burger King locations in the U.S. and Canada will continue selling Satisfries, the burger chain announced on Wednesday. This week, Burger King gave franchisees the choice to continue selling the lower-calorie French fries or to cut the menu offering. Many went with the latter option.
"At launch, Burger King Corporation (BKC) announced that guests would ultimately determine how long Satisfries would remain on the menu," a Burger King spokesperson said in a statement. "The remaining restaurants will treat the product as a limited time menu offering and have begun phasing it out after this unprecedented run."
Burger King first introduced Satisfries last September. The crinkle-cut fries have 40 percent less fat and 30 percent fewer calories than McDonald's French fries on a pound for pound basis, and depending on the size, at least 50 fewer calories than Burger King's original fry offering. The chain heavily hyped the product, focusing on the new fries in advertising and social media, and adding Satisfries to the Kid's Meal in March.
Burger King initially portrayed Satisfries as a success for the chain.
"During Q4, the introduction of the Big King sandwich and the first full quarter of Satisfries, the first of its kind better-for-you French fry, help increase sales," the company said in its fourth quarter earnings report in February. In April, the company announced plans to roll out Satisfies in major European markets.
Satisfries' inability to catch on with health-conscious customers may be a loss for Burger King, but the chain's willingness to listen to franchisees is a definite win for the franchisor-franchisee relationship. Struggles over unprofitable menu items are a common point of disagreement between franchisors and franchisees operating on slim profit margins. For example, the McDonald's Dollar Menu was a constant point of contention for franchisees, who protested the steeply discounted items and helped push the chain to rename the menu "Dollar Menu & More."
By putting the decision to stock Satisfries in the hands of franchisees, Burger King reveals the importance of the franchise model following its recent refranchising push. With essentially all Burger King restaurants now owned and operated by franchisees, the company -- taken public again in 2012 by 3G Capital -- needs to keep franchisees on its good side if it wants to succeed.