Burger King Fires Up Fourth Straight Sales Gains

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Miami-Long-embattled Burger King Corp., while firming up its newfound stance as a player in the quick-service sector's sales boom, is testing 24-hour restaurants and cashless transactions. The company also is launching more new products as it seeks to build on its recent momentum. The industry's No. 2 restaurant chain posted a 7.5 percent jump in U.S. same-store sales in May-its highest monthly gain since November 1999. The May results also marked BK's fourth consecutive month of positive same-store sales.

Sales drivers include premium new products-like the $3.29 Tender Crisp Chicken Sandwich, a line of $3.99 "fire-grilled" salads and the $3.29 Angus steak burger-improved restaurant operations and better marketing, Burger King's chief executive Brad Blum said. He added that BK would launch more menu items in the fall but declined to provide details. He indicated that the reintroduction of the Whopper, which was announced earlier this year, most likely would occur around the same time. In the works are a larger bun, higher-quality mayonnaise, fresher lettuce, thicker tomato and pickle slices, and coarser ground beef.

Still, since Blum joined BK in early 2003, the chain has shuttered more than 320 units. Some franchisees have gone bankrupt, and others are struggling to stay solvent. Blum said some operators still are in the throes of financial restructuring, but he anticipated that the process would be completed "within the next 12 months." When it comes to the future of those stores, he dismissed reports that Burger King would shutter 1,000 units this year, pledging "to close as few as possible." -Nation's Restaurant News


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