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Who Ordered 200 More Burger Kings?

The chain is going in on expansion of ... Exactly what it’s always done

Exterior view of the vegan Burger King at Leicester Square...
Outside the meat-free trial Burger King in Leicester Square.
Vuk Valcic/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Burger King wants to get back to doing what U.K. burger restaurant chains do best: opening way too many and just hoping there won’t be another casual dining crunch. Buoyed by a strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, it wants to open another 200 royal patty palaces across the land in the next five years, according to Sky.

The chain was one of the first and largest in the U.K. to publicly declare it would not be paying quarterly rents in early 2020, when COVID-19 first shut down restaurants. What chief executive Alastair Murdoch called “missteps” were behind its initial struggles; it is still, lest it be forgotten, the the U.K. franchise of a company that generates billions in revenue per year, backed by private equity firm Bridgepoint. It was probably going to be fine. And so it is. As Murdoch said:

“Both delivery and Drive Thru sales were strong throughout 2021 and will remain key areas of focus as we execute on our growth strategy. We have a strong development pipeline to further grow our UK footprint, and we are very well positioned to take advantage of the clear market opportunities ahead of us.”

That the chain sees a future in even more of the same burgers is more interesting still. The chains that spent the early aughts saying they were better at a national scale — Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Byron — have receded if not fallen by the wayside, but Gordon Ramsay is waiting with his bacteria-like multiplication of Street Burger restaurants to pick over their high street corpses. Its phony war with McDonald’s doesn’t quite win out when the golden archer has over 1,200 restaurants to Burger King’s 500ish. And its fleeting meat-free trial in Leicester Square, a proving ground for future menu development, is unlikely to bear significant fruit for a while. No doubt it has the money and the margins to just give the U.K. 200 more restaurants, but, if it does — then for what? “Money?” Surely not.

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