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Monday Meeting: Burger King Confirms New Menu

[4/5 Update: GrubGrade reports that BK is testing BBQ and pulled pork sandwiches, sweet potato fries and a bacon sundae in Nashville. Check it here.]

◙ BurgerBusiness.com tipped you off two weeks ago about Burger King’s new Chicken Strips and Crispy Chicken Snack Wraps. Last week this site told you about the chain’s new Garden Fresh Salads, smoothies, frappes, etc. on the new menu it has been rolling out. Burger King finally will catch up today with an official press release on the 10-item menu addition for the B2Bs to rewrite.

Jay Leno appears in TV spots for Burger King's new menu.

That’s not to say there isn’t fresh news here: TV commercials backing the menu from New York agency Mother feature the likes of late-night talker Jay Leno, singer Mary J. Blige, soccer star David Beckham and Colombian-born actress Sofia Vergara of “Modern Family” fame. Burger King SVP-Marketing Alex Macedo is quoted in today’s USA Today as explaining these choices by saying “We wanted a lineup of culturally diverse celebrities to reach all of our targets.”

A remodeled Burger King

I’m still unclear about which segment of Burger King’s core clientele the 61-year-old Jay Leno appeals. But I’m reminded that in 2008 the “A Hamburger Today” blog reported that Leno was one of 11 celebrities who at that time owned a gold BK Crown Card, good for free food for life from the chain. This apparently was one of those “gifts for the man who has everything.” The 64-year-old Steven Tyler also appears in the new ads.

“This is the biggest change in scope in the history of the brand,” Steve Wiborg, president of Burger King’s North American operations, tells USA Today today, citing the new menu and the chain’s “new look.” The facilities update is moving slowly, however. Last month, Burger King execs told analysts it had remodeled only 236 of its roughly 7,200 U.S. restaurants by the end of 2011.

◙ The most effective marketing campaign isn’t from a chain but from whomever had the bright idea to call ammonium hydroxide “pink slime,” thereby reducing a complex chemical additive to a concept simple enough that Americans could feel they understand it. And by golly they don’t like it.

The hamburger filler is more a supermarket problem than a restaurant one, but restaurants continue to get caught up in the hysteria. That reprinted-everywhere photo of the stuff looking like an albino python has forced McDonald’s to say it hasn’t used ammonium hydroxide for a year and pushed others to say they never have used it. Fast-casual chain Elevation Burger last month declared its 28 restaurants “Pink-Slime-Free Zones.”

Wendy’s last week last week took the unusual step of buying newspaper ads to tout what its doesn’t have. “We’ve never used fillers, additives, preservatives, flavor boosters or ammonia treatments. We’ve never used ‘pink slime’ and we never will.”

I suspect that “pink slime” is a much hotter topic for food crusader Jamie Oliver and others who never grab a burger at a QSR anyway than it is for those who do. First-quarter sales results for QSR burger chains will tell us if that’s so.

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