Why Burger King Had A Tough Time Inventing Its Breakfast Menu

When, in the late '70s, Burger King planned to follow McDonald's suit in creating a breakfast menu, it ran into a petard of its own hoisting. Namely, as The Balance explains, the flame broiler upon which Burger King built so much of its brand identity proved unsuitable for breakfast menu options. It took five years to fashion a menu that worked well with its equipment. 

PopSugar notes that when Burger King claims to use a flaming grill for its food, it uses a flaming grill, and quoted one former employee who said: "They use a broiler and you load frozen patties onto the tray and then shove them in and [it's] a flame grill inside." The electric griddle used by McDonald's prepared breakfasts better because it lacked that signature fire and grill shape, meaning you could just slap eggs onto it to fry.

The innovation that enabled Burger King to produce an egg-heavy menu seems to be a device that congeals egg mixtures into egg patties. According to an AMA with a former Burger King employee on Reddit, the company has a device that you slot into the grill. Once slotted, you "fill it up evenly with this liquid egg mix and BAM! in about a minute you have six eggs." The technique could also explain why in the last 40 years, Burger King has failed to produce anything as popular as the Egg McMuffin. 

The tough times never really passed for Burger King

Even as recently as 2019, Burger King was trying to think of ways to place its menu on par with McDonald's. Restaurant Business at the time reported Burger King executives were aware of the issue, but deemed the cause to be bad advertising, not bad taste.

"If you look at the daypart, you'll find we under-invested in media," Chris Finazzo, president of Burger King in the Americas, explained to Restaurant Business. "We haven't established a credible coffee program, and we haven't offered the variety our guests expect. So for us to win at breakfast, we have to be much more deliberate and aggressive." 

Let's look at the mentioned coffee program, which provides customers with unlimited coffee for $5 per month. In 2013, The Impulsive Buyer reviewed Burger King's upgraded attempt at coffee. The site's verdict was positive in a bottom-of-the-barrel sense: "But even though I wouldn't take the Smooth Roast over chains like Starbucks or even my own favorite, Einstein's Brothers, Burger King's Smooth Roast Coffee from Seattle's Best Coffee is a real improvement over Burger King's previous java attempts." A 2019 piece on Mashed found no improvement with the coffee. 

The issue, then, is not establishing a "credible coffee program," but providing the customers with coffee that they would want regardless of the program. Similar charges could probably be made towards the variety and media emphasizing the breakfast options. If you can't offer anything that can compete with an Egg McMuffin, focus on competing with the Egg McMuffin.