If imitation is the sincerest form of culinary flattery, Burger King Worldwide (BKW) is praising McDonald's (MCD) playbook.
Burger King rolled out new menu items last week. One of the additions is popcorn chicken. The bite-sized pieces of breaded and fried white-meat chicken breast should be familiar to folks that saw Mickey D's roll out its Chicken McBites earlier this year.
McDonald's added a spicy version of its McBites earlier this summer. It's probably just a matter of time before "The Home of the Whopper" follows suit.
Copycats with Burger Meat
No one's scoring points for originality in the fast food world. We live in a copycat world:
- When Red's Giant Hamburg on Route 66 introduced a drive-thru window in 1947 it made too much sense to ignore. It was quick. It was convenient. It was a hit.
- Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy is credited with inventing the boneless chicken breast sandwich in 1946 as a burger alternative. These days it's hard to find a burger joint that doesn't offer a chicken sandwich on the menu.
- Once Quizno's began achieving success with its baked sandwiches, Subway installed quick-baking TurboChef ovens.
If something works, others will follow. However, it does seem as if Burger King is just ripping page after page out of McDonald's playbook.
Bring on the Mango Smoothies
Burger King isn't afraid to copy what works. Burger King's springtime menu shakeup left many critics complaining that the chain was trying to be McDonald's. The addition of fruit smoothies, oatmeal bowls, caramel frappes, and chicken wrapped in soft flour tortillas was just too obvious.
Other seasonal or recent additions at Burger King include ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, and sweet potato fries, a menu addition that hadn't made its way to the golden arches first.
Cynics will argue that McDonald's was simply copying Yum! Brands' (YUM) KFC which has been serving popcorn chicken for years. They're right. However, it can't be a mere coincidence that Burger King is hopping on the trend mere months after McDonald's updates its menu.
After a brief hiatus, Burger King became a public company again in June.
That means the pressure is back on it perform on a quarterly basis, so expect the burger wars with McDonald's and Wendy's (WEN) to continue to intensify.
Now that the burger chains also have to look over their shoulders at the fast-growing gourmet burger chains, they can't afford to think too far outside of the burger box. If something works for one major burger restaurant, it's going to be copied by its peers.
Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of McDonald's. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of McDonald's.