The untold truth of Burger King

It's tough to imagine a world without Burger King, a place where you can go to satisfy the craving for something meaty, salty, filling, and fast. Whopper or Big Mac is one of lunchtime's oldest debates, and even if you fall firmly on the side of the Whopper, there are still probably some things you don't know — or don't remember — about this American favorite.

Did you know, for instance, it wasn't always called Burger King? The chain started out in 1950s Florida, and it was called Insta-Burger King after one of their key pieces of equipment: a stove called the Insta-Broiler. When the Insta-Broiler went the way of the dodo and was replaced by the now-famous flame-broiler, the name didn't make much sense any more. It became just Burger King in 1961, and it wasn't long after that the so-called Burger Wars began. So, what else don't you know about this fast food giant?

The Whopper Sacrifice was brutal

It's not enough just to get the word out about your product, successful advertising means making people want to buy it. That's a tough thing to do in the ever-changing landscape of public opinion and social media, and in 2009 Burger King's ad agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky decided to use Facebook as a platform for some bizarre viral marketing. They created an app that awarded people a coupon for a free Whopper… if they deleted 10 people from their friends list. No big deal, right?

What may have been all in good fun turned a little dark. The app also sent messages to anyone who found their friend status on the chopping block, letting them know their friendship was valued at less than one-tenth of a Whopper. Ouch.

Facebook shut the app down after only ten days, saying it was a massive violation of their users' privacy. In that time, CNet says the app was installed on almost 60,000 accounts, 20,000 of those people got free Whoppers, and 200,000 people had their feelings hurt. Suddenly, it's not so fun any more.

Burger King vs. Burger King

Everyone knows what the BK logo looks like, and that makes the black-and-white signs of one Illinois Burger King look that much more out of place. There's a weird story here, and it starts with the Frigid Queen ice cream shop in Mattoon, Illinois. It changed hands in 1952, and when new owners thought they'd have a little fun with the name — "every queen needs a king", Atlas Obscura reports — they called their new burger joint Burger King. They trademarked the name in Illinois in 1959, and even though the other Burger King was already up and running, it hadn't made it to Illinois yet. When it did, there was a huge problem.

It's a classic case of David vs. Goliath, and in this case, the little guy won. Illinois courts ruled that Gene and Betty Hoots could not only keep their restaurant's name, but they were also given a section of Illinois that was just theirs. The larger Burger King was forbidden from opening a location anywhere inside a 20-mile radius of the Hoots' Burger King, and when they approached the Hoots to ask permission to set up shop within the radius, permission was denied.

Their healthy fries tanked

They were called Satisfries, and Time says that even when Burger King rolled out their lower-calorie, higher-price fries, it was with the caveat that sales would determine their ultimate fate. They started appearing on menus in September 2013, and by August 2014, many locations were getting rid of this healthier option.

Satisfries had about 40 percent less fat and 30 percent fewer calories than their standard fries (and cost more), but let's put this in perspective: the small serving still had 40 more calories than a small serving of standard McDonald's fries.

At the same time they were getting rid of Satisfries in most locations, BK also announced they were going to be bringing back another menu item: Chicken fries. Time Money says this little microcosm of fast food economics is the perfect demonstration of one of the biggest problems in the industry, and that's the healthy being pushed to the wayside in favor of the not-so-healthy — all done under the guise of giving people what they want.

They threw shade at little brother

In 2015, McDonald's turned 60. That's a big deal, but McDonald's is actually the younger burger-slinging sibling, and BK took the anniversary as an opportunity to remind them who had actually opened first — by a whole four months.

As part of McDonald's celebration, they introduced a "1955 Burger" and the tagline, "A Tribute to Where it All Began." It was a nice thought, and The Christian Science Monitor noted that BK's response was as epic as it was discreet. They trademarked "Since 1954" at the same time they trademarked "Be Your Way," and they started putting it everywhere.

That included global marketing campaigns, and in a way, it couldn't have come at a better time. Fox Business says that in 2018, the competition between Burger King and McDonald's hit an all-time high in the Asian market, so of course the new trademark started appearing on their overseas press releases. Take that, little bro!

They created the longest 15-second ad in history

BK has a long history of some weird advertising gimmicks, and in 2017 they came up with the weirdest of them all. The idea was pretty epic, and it involved not just a commercial, but the hijacking of viewers' Google Home devices.

The American Marketing Association credits ad agency David with the idea, and it was basically to film a short commercial featuring an actor asking, "Ok, Google. What's the Whopper sandwich?" Any Google Home device that picked up the audio would answer by reading the Wikipedia entry for the Whopper, and that's a brilliant mind-meld of media, right?

Google definitely didn't think so, and they didn't appreciate having their users devices exploited. The Verge says the ad was only effective for about three hours, until the sound clip was added to the list of things Google Home wouldn't respond to. People had already taken the opportunity to edit the Whopper's wiki to include all kinds of questionable information, proving that even the most brilliant marketing strategies can be trolled, but still achieve the original goals. In this case, it was all about the "talkability", and it definitely got people talking.

Yes, everyone hates the mascot

The Burger King might be the most creeptastic food mascot out there, and if he gives you nightmares, you're not alone. Consumerist took a poll in 2014 to see what food mascots people found the creepiest, and he took almost 20 percent of the votes (also up there with the same percentages were the Quiznos Sponge Monkey and the old version of Ronald McDonald). Add in the fact that a huge number of the commercials featuring the Burger King were definitely nightmare-fuel, and you have a bizarrely uncomfortable mascot. (Waking up to find him in bed with you? Who thought that was a good idea?)

In 2011, Mother Jones reported we could all sleep a little better at night, knowing he was being officially retired in the midst of what BK said was an attempt to refocus their marketing strategy. The King didn't make the cut, but it was only four years later that Consumerist was announcing he was back on the front lines. Whether or not that's a good thing depends on how resistant your nightmares truly are.

You can visit a Burger King sauna

Burger King had a major first in 2016, when they opened the first fast-food sauna. Located in Helsinki, it's not entirely out in left field. Vice's Munchies says there are around 2 million saunas in Finland, catering to a population of around 5.5 million. But there's only one official one where you can go to relax, have an employee take your order, then chow down on a Whopper and some fries while sweating like crazy.

If you're so inclined, you can even rent it out for a private party. There's enough room in there for around 15 people — and their food — and they even sell robes embroidered with the BK logo. You can grab some beer from the fridge, kick back in front of the massive TV, and don't worry, you can also get a shower there afterward. It's surprisingly successful, and it's no wonder. Where else can you get the literal meat sweats?

They weighed in on net neutrality

Net neutrality is a huge issue, and a whole slew of celebrities and companies have entered the fray to weigh in on just how devastating it would be if internet providers were allowed to charge more for faster, priority service.

They translated the issue to their own business model to show just how ludicrous — and frustrating — it could be, with a commercial that asked customers if they wanted to pay more for their Whopper to get it faster (via Variety). Customers paid based on a Whopper's MBPS speed (which they called Making Burgers Per Second), and employees explained that since BK could make more selling chicken sandwiches, they were slowing down how fast customers could access the Whopper. Insane, right? Customers thought so, too.

If that didn't make it clear where Burger King stands on the idea of net neutrality, they even took it a step further. They directed viewers to a petition to help keep an open internet, and it's an admittedly brilliant way to make people aware of the potential dangers ahead.

The bling burger

In 2008, Burger King waded into the fray in the fight of the ridiculously overpriced burgers with a creation simply called "The Burger." Available in just one West London restaurant, The Burger was made with Wagyu beef, Pata Negra ham, Cristal onion straws, white truffles, and Modena balsamic vinegar, and anyone wanting to sample this high-end creation would first need to fork over £95, or around $200 (via Fox News). British papers weren't necessarily impressed — The Guardian condemned The Burger for its carbon footprint and its taste overload — but the stunt still gave BK the record for selling what was, at the time, the world's most expensive burger.

There was more to it than just a pricey lunch and an opportunity for some showing off to your friends, though. All the proceeds went to the Help A London Child charity, an organization that lends a helping hand to children and youth suffering through life circumstances like homelessness, poverty, illness, and abuse. At least that expensive lunch was for a good cause.

What's the deal with those Crown Cards?

In 2008, actor Hugh Laurie sent ripples of shock across the gossip network after making a single, off-hand comment to the London Times. He claimed one of the perks of being a celebrity was having a special lifetime, unlimited, BK Crown Card (via Adage). He claimed other celebrities — like Jay Leno and George Lucas — also had the card, and it was an exclusive club to be in. Bloggers were equal parts shocked, envious, and hate-filled, and they all seemed to forget one big bit of information: before he was on House, he was a comedian.

Laurie didn't actually have one of the cards at the time, but got one after his comments caused an uproar. According to Cherie Koster, senior manager of the chain's Pay It Your Way program, Laurie makes the 12th celebrity to get one of the coveted cards. They're awarded for more than just celebrity: Jennifer Hudson got one after she skyrocketed to fame, because she's a former employee. You can get one, too — on their web site — but you'll need to pay for yours.

You can order a Suicide Burger

Secret menus aren't really secret, they're more accurately described as menu items that aren't on the regular menu. BK has one of those items, and it's called the Suicide Burger.

Hack the Menu says it's an even bigger version of the Triple Stacker, and if your location doesn't know what the Suicide Burger is, you might be able to order it by another name: a Quad Stacker. There are four patties, four slices of cheese, a layer of bacon, and that special sauce that makes a BK burger, well, completely BK.

If that doesn't sound like it's on the healthy side, it's definitely not. There's no official nutritional information for it, but there is information out there on the Triple Stacker. That'll set you back 640 calories, 42 grams of fat, and 940 mg of sodium, and that's bad enough! Just imagine adding more of everything and the inevitable fries and a drink — as long as you're not planning on eating anything else for a few days, you'll still be sticking to your diet.

They're fans of the fisticuffs

There was a ton of hype surrounding 2015's "Fight of the Century," so when Floyd Mayweather, Jr. stepped into MGM there were a ton of people watching… and scratching their heads. With him were Justin Bieber and BK's Burger King mascot — which made us all a bit curious.

Vice's Fightland took a look at this unlikely partnership, and found it goes back a long way. George Foreman was such a fan of the fast food joint he had a training camp right next to a BK, and in 2008, the burger chain sponsored Jamaica's national boxing program to the tune of $500,000. They've supported boxing in New Zealand, too, had an advertising deal with Evander Holyfield, and filmed a commercial advertising their burgers and a hoax product designed to allow for hands-free eating. A boxer was featured in the commercial, and the creepy king even showed up in EA Sports as an unlockable boxer.

They definitely love their boxing, and in 2018 UFC's Conor McGregor teamed up with them — and the Burger King — for a weirdly disturbing advertisement (via Vice). Clearly, they're all about fisticuffs of any kind.