The Real Reason Burger King's Menu Is Getting Smaller

Dropping by your favorite fast-food spot only to be paralyzed by the choices that are on offer happens to all of us — so often that its spawned both a meme and a Super Bowl ad (we're looking at you, McDonalds!). And while the "Can I get uuuuuuuhhhhhh..." moment is good for a few laughs, it doesn't make for a great customer experience all around. 

With that said, Burger King has started simplifying its menus to improve efficiency, with an eye toward making it simpler and easier to run a restaurant, per Restaurant Business. Some of the discontinued items, per the outlet, include kids-sized drink cups and ice cream sundaes.

When Burger King decided to cut items like sundaes from its menu, the disappearance went virtually unnoticed — yet sales rose 1.8%. And Tom Curtis, president of Burger King's North America Operations, said to Restaurant Business that Burger King's "operators celebrated like it was homecoming." 

Burger King management indicated changes were coming

It's not like fans weren't warned about the changes, either. In December 2021, Jose Cil, CEO of Burger King's parent company, Restaurant Brands, told market analysts that the company had noticed a slowdown in the speed of Burger King's drive-thru service. As a result, he said during a market presentation (via USA Today), "We're working on ... simplifying processes that have become a bit too complicated in terms of sandwich builds and doing a better job in terms of the menu design to make it easier for the customer, at the drive-thru in particular, to make quicker decisions."

And a streamlined menu may be exactly what efficiency experts ordered. As The New York Times reported, choice paralysis — or the inability to make a decision when faced with an overload of choices — is definitely a thing. Research shows people are less likely to be satisfied by their selection than they would otherwise be if they had fewer options to choose from. 

Columbia University professor of business Sheena Iyengar conducted a study involving jams on offer at a California high-end supermarket and found that when faced with a larger selection of items, people were more inclined to buy less. She said to the Times the study had "raised the hypothesis that the presence of choice might be appealing as a theory, but in reality, people might find more and more choice to actually be debilitating."

Cutting menu items helps improve service efficiency

Burger King has found the same thought process about offering fewer options applies to its products, too. Burger King is focusing on its line of Whopper sandwiches; Tom Curtis, Burger King's North America's President of Operations, called the burger "a multi-billion-dollar brand and we need to treat it as such." Another change fans can expect to see? A focus on chicken, including packaging that "celebrates our original chicken sandwich and offers a fun new approach to our unique, fan-favorite Chicken Fries," Curtis said to Restaurant Business.

Trimming menus isn't the only thing the chain is looking to do — Burger King wants to simplify the way it does things, too. "For example, we have multiple hamburgers. And we have six ways of putting cheese on hamburgers. Put it on first, last, top, bottom, three slices, two slices. We condensed that. It involves less muscle memory," Curtis said to Restaurant Business. 

And simplifying the menu is expected to bring about one specific outcome. As Restaurant Brands International CEO Jose Cil said to Restaurant Business, "In the end, it all has to be centered on making the experience better for the guest ... That's the most definitive way to ensure repeat business."