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Friday, January 22, 2010

Burger King plans beer-selling Whopper Bar in South Beach

Aluminum bottles will keep the beer cold.

Aluminum bottles will keep the beer cold.

Gimme a Whopper, fries — and a beer.
Those words are no longer wishful thinking. Friday, Burger King (BKC) will unveil plans to sell beer and burgers at a Whopper Bar — a new BK concept to compete with casual dining restaurants — in Miami Beach's tourist-heavy South Beach. The South Beach Whopper Bar is scheduled to open in mid-February.

Don't look for beer at conventional Burger Kings. That's not in the plans. But more Whopper Bars — which offer an assortment of burgers, toppings and beer — could be on tap in tourist hot spots such as New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, says Chuck Fallon, president of Burger King North America.
A brewski at the new Whopper Bar — served in special aluminum bottles to keep them extra cold — fetches $4.25. Or, order beer as part of a Whopper combo and your bill will be $7.99 — roughly $2 more than the same combo meal with a fountain drink.
The unusual move comes as the restaurant industry is reeling. Restaurant operators reported lower same-store sales in November, compared with a year earlier, for the 18th-consecutive month, the National Restaurant Association reports. Nearly 65% of operators reported a same-store sales decline in November. December results were unavailable.
Burger King's Whopper Bar isn't the first fast-food chain to test alcoholic beverages domestically. Last year in Seattle, Starbucks opened "15th Avenue Coffee and Tea, inspired by Starbucks." Beyond coffee and tea, it sells regional beers and wines.
By trying to wedge into the fast-casual dining arena with Whopper Bar, Burger King is chasing the 30-and-under crowd, which is the industry's future growth, says Bradford Hudson, marketing professor at Boston University. But the move is very tricky, he says, because "Burger King means fast food."
But Linda Lipsky, a restaurant consultant, says the move makes sense. "The Burger King customer is aging, so they're just trying to grow up with the customer."
The restaurant will initially sell Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors beers. "You can have America's favorite beers with America's favorite burger," Fallon says. More will eventually be added, he says.
But Lipsky says the chain will be challenged to train staff to legally sell and serve alcohol. "You can be an easy mark if you're not used to selling alcohol," she says.
Burger Kings in Germany and Whopper Bars in Singapore and Venezuela sell beer. But this will be the first BK brand in the USA to sell beer. (A Whopper Bar in Universal City does not sell beer.) "We're in the midst of understanding how much beer will be a part of the (sales pitch)," Fallon says.
The restaurant also will offer delivery of all items — except beer.