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7 Reasons Why McDonald's Crushes Burger King Year After Year After Year

7 Reasons Why McDonald's Crushes Burger King Year After Year After Year Blog Feature

Marcus Sheridan

Keynote Speaker, Author & Partner, Author of ’They Ask You Answer”, Presented 250+ Sales, Marketing, & Communication Workshops Worldwide

December 7th, 2010 min read

I love talking about food. And I love talking about business. Even better, most of the people that read this blog share these same passions and so today I’m going to deviate a little from the norm and have a little fun analyzing two household names that we’ve all grown up experiencing quite a bit of: McDonald's and Burger King.

The other day, as I was standing at a gas station I looked out to see a McDonald's and Burger King on opposite sides of the street. Furthermore, I could clearly see that McDonald's(McD's) was doing really, really well. It was bustling with activity and the drive-thru was at least 5 cars back. On the other hand, BK, although still relatively busy, appeared to have half the volume of customers as their nemesis.

So the question is why? How can McDonald's continue to kick Burger King all over the field over and over again? I find it a very intriguing question, one that, when analyzed, is applicable to any business or niche. Let’s take a look.

7 Reasons Why McDonald's Dominates Burger King

1. Branding

When someone says McDonald's, what comes to mind? It is the golden arches? Maybe Ronald McDonald? How about the Big Mac? Yep, MickeyD's is loaded with brand images that are embedded into the souls of Americans from a very early age, and the company’s influence has been profound.

Now let’s try it for BK. When someone says ‘Burger King’, what do you think of? Personally, I think of that freaky looking ‘King’ guy that appears to belong on some Rated-R movie. Seriously, who the heck designed that guy? Let’s put it like this, who would your child rather approach—Ronald McDonald or Freaky Burger King guy? What a head-scratcher that one is…

2. They Make Tough Choices

McD's recently went through a major change in their company with the addition of McCafe. Was this an easy choice? Heck no. It was expensive and there were certainly a fair share of franchisees that were none-too-thrilled. Notwithstanding, recent reports have showed this huge investment is already paying off and taking a chunk from big boys in the coffee industry like Starbucks. And BK? Yeah, they have coffee…..I think.

McD's has always been known to make tough choices—some succeeding greatly and some failing miserably. But their willingness to fail is in a class by itself and enables them to stay ahead of their competitors year after year.

3. They Innovate Better than Anyone

Do you remember when the McGriddle came out? At first everyone thought a ‘pancake sandwich’ sounded really weird, that is until they tasted them. The McGriddles were a huge hit, and are still a part of the menu today. I could literally list dozens of major McDonalds innovations over the years, but it suffices to say that these guys are focused better than anyone in the fast food arena on constant innovation.

Regarding BK, can you name 1 major innovation they’ve had over the years?? (crickets in the background…..)

4. They Copy Better than Anyone

Hey, why reinvent the wheel when it already works? A perfect example of this is the relatively new country fried chicken sandwich of McD's. Anyone with a brain knows that this sandwich was a clear copy of its counterpart at Chick-fil-A, yet notwithstanding the ‘copied’ version tastes pretty darn good in comparison. This was also true with the ‘McFlurry’….hmmm, strangely sounds like ‘Blizzard’ there ;-)

Simply put, when McD's sees something working well for other venues, they’re not afraid to say, “Hey, we didn’t come out with it first, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take the ideas and run with it.” If only every restaurant and business followed this example and understood when to copy the successful behaviors of their competitors.

5. They Speak to Children

Ever heard the phrase ‘Happy Meal’? Of course you have. So has everyone else, including children. For years McD's has established strong relationships in their brand by marketing directly to children, and giving them the products they want—little meals with lots of color, happy faces, and a toy (hence, Happy Meal).

But what about BK? Can you come up with the name of their ‘kid’s meal’? I sure can’t.

6. They’re Always First

Not only were these the first guys way back in the day to invent the fast food burger and then franchise their little gold-mine, but they have also continued to be first in most areas to this day. If you think back, it was only a couple of years ago that fast food restaurants didn’t take credit cards. Today, they all do, but as you might well imagine, guess who was one of the first to jump on board with credit card machines? That’s right, the Golden Arches wins again, back in April of 2004.

7. Hamburger University

The first time I heard about Hamburger University and their 5,000 yearly graduates I was blown away. The fact that a company could be so focused on education and innovation and establish a scholastic burger Mecca is mind-blowing when one really thinks about it.

What are we missing?

Have you noticed the one quality I haven’t listen here? If you guessed food quality, you’re right. Here is the thing—I think most people would agree that the food at McDonald's versus Burger King isn’t much better, if at all. Heck, many people would even argue that ‘The King’ is a better product. But notwithstanding, the gross sales when comparing the two companies aren’t even close, which goes to show that ‘product quality’ isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

OK, so I’ve said my piece, now I’m curious to get your thoughts. What reasons have I missed? Do you agree or disagree? Understand that I’m not really interested in debating the merits of their food, just the business models in general. Why else do the Golden Arches reign supreme and what further business lessons can be learned?

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