It all started when Burger King executives stumbled upon a train station location in Germany that was little more than a walk-up window serving Whoppers. The experience provided inspiration for the world’s first Whopper Bar, which opened March 10 in Orlando.
“In a lot of the research we've seen, the Whopper is equally known with Burger King,” says Julio Ramirez, EVP of Burger King's Global Operations. “We're really trying to play to our strength, which is flame broiling. That's what really differentiates our brand from our competitors.”
The Whopper Bar concept is designed to work in nontraditional venues with captive audiences such as airports and sports arenas. Accordingly, the first store is located in Universal Studios' CityWalk concourse.
Customers walk up to the counter and choose each component of their Whoppers, a la Subway or Chipotle. Burgers are crafted from a variety of breads and meats and topped with the customer’s favorite condiments; 22 choices are available from the “Whopper Topper”. A menu of “Bar Favorites” offers some familiar options—such as the Angry Whopper—and a few new ones. Whopperistas assemble the product in front of customers.
“It's simple, and yet it gives you a huge variety and focus on what the customer wants,” Ramirez says.
The store design also is focused on creating a premium customer experience. The interior of the Whopper Bar features curved counters, flame images, and a palette of dark red, black, and gray. Digital menuboards and POS units add to the sleek look.
“These are going to look like a place you'd want to go and have a drink,” Ramirez says.
Eventually, customers might be able to do just that. Ramirez says Burger King is considering selling beer and other alcoholic beverages at future Whopper Bars.
Burger King plans to expand the Whopper Bar globally in the coming year and to make the concept available to franchisees. The next store is scheduled to open in Munich early this summer, and restaurants in Los Angeles, New York, and Singapore are also in the works.
For 25-year Burger King veteran Ramirez, the trendy concept is a refreshing new phase in the quick-serve's development.
“We're certainly a cooler brand than we were many years ago,” he says. “It's nice to see the evolution of a brand.”