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Checkers & Rally's Slaps Burger King in Wiener War


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This full page ad in USA Today was Checkers & Rally's response to Burger King's hot dog launch on Feb. 23.

“Hey Burger King. It’s time to compare wieners.” So declared the full-page ad in USA Today last week, in which Checkers & Rally’s shot back at Burger King after its national rollout of a $1.99 hot dog in February.

Burger King’s hot dog launch is an “overpriced, late-to-the game idea,” in Checkers and Rally’s eyes. “We’ve been selling 100 percent beef hotdogs for over 30 years, in over 800 restaurants. We’re a good-sized chain, but when a big burger chain wants to jump into our backyard, we have to defend our turf,” says CEO Rick Silva.

A plain dog at Checkers & Rally’s usually sells for $1, but they slashed that to 79 cents through March. Silva won’t specify numbers, but says “we’re selling twice as many as before” the ads and promotion began.

Silva and Terri Snyder, chief marketing officer at Checkers & Rally’s, say the best part is the fun they’re having with the campaign. “My favorite part was 'hashtag wiener smackdown,'” says Silva, about the Twitter handle their new ad agency in Atlanta dreamed up as part of the campaign.

Added Snyder about the response: “People have been very, very clever. Just fun and really, really witty.” (Funnily enough, the most frequent comments she received are not about the racy wiener puns, but rather about the word’s spelling. Everybody, it seems, thinks it’s spelled weiner, and many took pains to tell her so. Look it up, people.)

The campaign will continue for several weeks on social and digital platforms. “What a lot of brands are doing now is, when there’s a pop culture opportunity, they’re using a combination of PR and social/digital, and a lot of folks are using print to put a stake down,” Snyder says. Major newspapers and magazines “have become a place where brands become part of the conversation.”

Burger King announced its hot dog rollout with some naughty language of its own, buying wrappers around the New York Post and other newspapers saying, “The King’s got a Whopper…and we’re not talking about burgers.”

Burger King’s road to selling hot dogs started nearly two years ago in five test markets. Burger King says sales exceeded targets in each of the markets, so it decided to roll them out in all 7,150 of its North American restaurants.

According to The Street, Alex Macedo, Burger King’s president of North America, said at an event right before the rollout: “We are not seeing grilled dogs as a product launch; we are tapping into a new category. This is probably the biggest thing we have done as a brand in a few decades.”

In other words, it looks unlikely the wiener wars will die down anytime soon.

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The latest news, opinions and commentary on what's happening in the franchise arena that could affect your business.

Tom KaiserTom Kaiser is associate editor of Franchise Times. He can be reached at 612.767.3209, or send story ideas to tkaiser@franchisetimes.com.
 
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Mary Jo LarsonMary Jo Larson is the publisher of Franchise Times Magazine and the Restaurant Finance Monitor.  You can find her on Twitter at
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Nancy WeingartnerNancy Weingartner is editor-at-large of Franchise Times magazine and the editor of the Food On Demand media project. You can reach her at 612-767-3200 or at nancyw@franchisetimes.com.
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