Restaurant Brands International (the parent company of Tim Hortons and Burger King) today reported financial results for the first quarter of 2016. The fast-food chain's sales rose 4.6 percent globally (4.4 percent in the U.S.), in part bolstered by "premium" menu items, like the grilled hot dog.
Yes, Burger King considers its new hot dogs a "premium" item.
In a call with analysts Thursday morning, CEO Daniel Schwartz attributed sales growth, in part, to the result of successful product launches and promotions, including hot dogs. "When you look at what drives our results in the Burger King U.S. business, [it's] all four pillars of our strategy—menu, marketing, image and great operations. There's no silver bullet. Grilled Dogs did well... value offerings, five-for-$4 being one of them. We saw a nice benefit from all the restaurants we've remodeled." Over the past year, the company has worked to modernize many of its restaurants (50 percent of stores have now been revamped), and executives say they will "accelerate the pace" of "reimagining" stores this year.
Though he was asked by analysts to comment on how the brand plans to compete in the competitive fast-food space moving forward, Schwartz shied away from a direct response, saying only, "the industry is always competitive, it's our job to grow independent [of that]." When asked specifically how Burger King plans to compete with other fast-food restaurants announcing quality upgrades, Schwartz said, "We think we have great quality. As you know, we flame-grill all of our burgers and all of our chicken sandwiches. The Whopper is America's favorite burger and continues to be America's favorite burger."
No word on whether "America's favorite burger" will eventually be made sans preservatives or antibiotics, steps many BK competitors have already announced. Earlier this month, Taco Bell announced it would be dropping antibiotics from its chicken. Subway has also announced a plan to transition to antibiotic-free meats. And McDonald's is moving away from both antibiotics and preservatives, at least in its Chicken McNuggets.
Rather than focusing on the quality of the beef in its burgers (or its chicken for that matter), Burger King has recently turned to gimmicks, like "angry" red buns. The company is also now offering fried chicken in the shape of rings.
After the call, stock in Restaurant Brands International (NYSE: QSR) was trading up, at $43.17 a share.