Burger King wants to go back to doing what UK burger restaurant chains do best: opening far too many restaurants and hoping there won’t be another casual dining crisis. Buoyed by a strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, it aims to open another 200 royal palaces across the country over the next five years, according to Sky.
The chain was one of the first and largest in the UK to publicly declare that it would not be paying quarterly rents in early 2020 when COVID-19 first closed restaurants. What chief executive Alastair Murdoch called “missteps” were the root of his initial difficulties; it’s still, lest we forget, the UK franchise of a company that generates billions in revenue a year, backed by private equity firm Bridgepoint. It was probably going to be fine. And that’s how. As Murdoch said:
“Delivery and drive-thru sales have been strong throughout 2021 and will remain key areas of focus as we execute our growth strategy. We have a strong development pipeline to further expand our footprint in the UK. United, and we are very well positioned to take advantage of the market opportunities that are available to us.”
That the channel sees a future in even more of the same the burgers are even more interesting. Chains that spent the early years saying they were better nationally – Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Byron – have backed off if not fallen by the wayside, but Gordon Ramsay is waiting with his bacterial multiplication of Street Burger restaurants to choose their corpses from the main street. Its fake war with McDonald’s doesn’t quite win when the golden archer has over 1,200 restaurants to Burger King’s 500ish. And its short-lived meatless trial in Leicester Square, a testing ground for future menu development, isn’t expected to bear significant fruit for some time. He undoubtedly has the cash and the margins to give the UK 200 more restaurants, but if so, then what for? “Money?” Surely not.