A Whopper at 8 A.M. Isn't the Answer, Burger King

whoppers at breakfast isn't the answer for burger king
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
It's apparently never too early to have a hamburger. While most chains wait until 10 or 11 a.m. to begin offering their signature burgers, early risers will be able to skip straight to lunch at thousands of participating Burger King (BKW) locations. The fast food giant's betting that some morning commuters want more than just a breakfast burrito or a ham and egg sandwich for breakfast. Later this month Burger King is rolling out a "burgers for breakfast" campaign across 5,000 of its restaurants, offering its signature Whopper as well as a few other burgers and chicken sandwiches in the morning. Assuming that you don't want hash browns on the side, fries will also be made available. So will apple pie.

Whopper, BK King and Original Fried Chicken sandwiches will be part of the chain's breakfast offerings. Will it confuse diners? Will the move complicate matters for employees manning the prep tables and fryers? Will the great variety stall patrons as they ponder the menu when it's time to order, creating longer wait times for food?

The questions won't be answered right away, but Burger King doesn't have much of a choice. Breakfast is big business, and chains have to stand out one way or another.

Another Shot in the Battle for Breakfast

It isn't easy to make a difference in the morning. Just ask Wendy's (WEN), which has already retreated twice from the national breakfast market over the past decade. The first time it thought that it could set itself apart by offering sausage gravy-soaked biscuits and breakfast versions of its then-popular Frescata sandwiches. More recently it tried to stick closer to the McDonald's (MCD) playbook with oatmeal, breakfast burritos and biscuit sandwiches. That didn't pan out either, and last year it discontinued breakfast at all but less than 10 percent of its restaurants.

It's not just the burger flippers hoping to woo diners with caffeinated mornings. Subway -- the world's largest restaurant chain based on the number of locations -- got into the game four years ago with by offering eggy sandwiches for breakfast.

The latest unlikely player is Yum Brands' (YUM) Taco Bell. It rolled out its morning menu in late March, quickly following that up with two ads targeting niche leader McDonald's.

Everyone's Chasing Ronald

McDonald's owns breakfast, and that's a challenge for any quick-service chain hoping to extend its operating day by opening in the morning. Burger King has been taking notes in the past, ripping off many of the chain's most popular items down to a near replica of McDonald's flagship Egg McMuffin sandwich. Smoothies, oatmeal and caramel frappes were all introduced at McDonald's before Burger King got in on the fun.

Burger King could've gone the Taco Bell route. The Waffle Taco and A.M. Crunchwrap are unique items that one can only get at the country's largest burrito roller. Instead we're seeing Burger King trying to stand out by serving some of its lunch options a couple of hours earlier in the day.

Will it be enough? Selling parents driving their kids to school or commuters heading out to work on the merits of a Whopper at 9 a.m. won't be easy. Some of these items can get messy for distracted drivers. It will be incremental, and that's the point. As long as it doesn't slow up the drive-thru queue, this will help grow Burger King's business. But it may come at the expense of losing its breakfast identity.

The ideal solution is to follow Taco Bell into unique items that sound more outrageous than they actually taste. Burger King's breakfast menu isn't a photocopy of what McDonald's is doing. It does have a few items -- including croissant sandwiches and French toast sticks -- that were popularized there.

That's probably where the chain's emphasis should remain. Make breakfast better. Don't just make lunch earlier. Hungry morning drivers will have the final say in this breakfast battle. They always do.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Burger King Worldwide and McDonald's.

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May 22 2014 at 9:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chef Donna

Burgers early would make my hubby happy - he's not keen on eggs. On the other hand, I'm a night owl & work late, so tend to sleep till 9-10a and never make it out to get breakfast because everyone ends @ 10:30a. I'm sorry, I'm somebody who could eat breakfast food all day long. I miss Jack-in-the-Box....could get a fried egg sandwich at any hour!

May 13 2014 at 11:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I get off work at 6 Am, and I do NOT want breakfast; I want DINNER!! BK, I will be there!!

May 13 2014 at 11:46 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I would like to point out that BK is gross and they are doing the exact opposite of what fast food chains should be doing and that is to serve BREAKFAST ALL DAY.

May 13 2014 at 11:10 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Hola Tavo

Last two times I ate at BK, I had a fish and a whopper, both were horrible, I'll stay with Wendy's.

May 13 2014 at 10:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Burger King needs to re-invent itself..as far as breakfast goes. I would suggest a BK… organic free range egg sandwich, and a nice cool soy milk drink. That one would bring the people out in droves. Or of course…they could do whoppers for breakfast…. dumb.

May 13 2014 at 10:45 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Stephen's comment

OMG, organic free range, soy milk this will bring people out in droves? LOL I would like to know what fantasy world do you live in?

May 14 2014 at 1:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

THIS IS NOT NEW !!!!!sorry to burst bubbles her but when i went to work for bk back in 1988 we served burgers chicken and fish from open to close we had a lot of customers who were just getting off work who were hungry and didnt want breakfast also had people who would come in for breakfast and also order lunch to go so as not having to go or were not able to go out for lunch for whatever reason so they would order and ham and cheese or a salad to go....GET OVER IT THEY ARE JUST GOING BACK TO THEIR ROOTS

May 13 2014 at 10:06 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

It makes perfect sense to me. Many fast food chains offer meat sandwiches using biscuits. Biscuits are much higher in fat than hamburger buns and I cannot see a beef patty being worse for you than fried eggs, sausage or ham. When I grill burgers I usually grill a bunch and eat them over the course of several days. Many of them are consumed for breakfast. I have always loved a hamburger for breakfast.

May 13 2014 at 8:35 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Last year I tried several breakfast sandwiches at a Wendy's and they were great,they were unique.I'm not a big fan of Hardee's hamburgers but if there were more of them,McD's would be knocked off their throne.Every time I stop or drive by a Hardees in the mornings,the parking lot is packed.

May 13 2014 at 7:51 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

People are acting like it is a crime to eat burgers for breakfast. This practice of serving burgers for breakfast has been going on for years at the local Burger Kings, Jack in the Boxes, and Carl's Jr's...and I'm glad. Plenty of family restaurants traditionally serve "Breakfast All Day;" so why is it such a big deal to serve burgers all day? People should get to eat what they want to eat...not what society tells them they should like to eat because it is a particular hour of the day, or because we have always done it that way. We have a society that operates 24 hours a day without traditional sleep patterns; so, why would we expect people to follow the same routines as everyone else because of a clock? To each their own. Our society has become non-traditional in almost every way. Don't expect anyone to fit into a mold any more. Just because I enjoy burgers for breakfast doesn't mean I'm not traditional in other ways. It doesn't mean I am for same sex marriage, inter-racial marriage, women wearing burquas...but, then, because I also like eggs, maybe I am for same sex marraige, inter-racial marriage, or women wearing burquas. I don't fit any mold...I even like cold, left over pizza for breakfast... I should be careful what I write; because, the "Breakfast Police" may try to use their NSA contacts to find out where I live, and have me arrested. ... After reading this article; apparently, if a 24 hour pizza kitchen were to open in certain neighborhoods where there are the Breakfast Police, they would have to operate like a speak-easy during Prohibition.

May 13 2014 at 7:48 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply