Burger King is preparing to add hot dogs to the menu at its U.S. restaurants in two weeks, tapping into an alliance made possible by the merger of Kraft Foods and H.J. Heinz.
It's the most significant menu expansion for the second-largest U.S. burger chain since it added a chicken sandwich in the 1970s, said Alex Macedo, the company's North American president. The hot dogs will come in two varieties: classic, served with mustard, ketchup, relish and onions; and chili-cheese.
"We didn't crack the code or anything," Macedo said during an interview. "This is the most obvious product launch ever."
The rollout comes as industry leader McDonald's is recovering from its worst slump in more than a decade, adding urgency to the battle for fast-food customers. Wendy's Co. and Burger King, which have boosted sales with new menu items and value promotions, have seen their biggest rival rediscover its footing in the United States after it starting selling breakfast items all day in October.
Burger King spent more than a year preparing to release hot dogs at its roughly 7,150 U.S. locations on Feb. 23, testing the product in five markets. The recipe for the classic variety was developed after research showed that relish, onions, mustard and ketchup made up the most common combination of toppings across the U.S., according to Macedo. He said the national rollout will make Burger King the biggest seller of hot dogs in the world.
Burger King didn't have to look far to find a supplier. The hot dogs are coming from Oscar Mayer, which, like Burger King, is managed by 3G Capital, the private equity firm founded by Brazilian billionaire Jorge Paulo Lemann.
The meat company, formerly a part of Kraft Foods, joined the broader 3G family last year, when Kraft and Heinz merged in a deal backed by Warren Buffett. The billionaire investor also is one of the biggest shareholders in Restaurant Brands International, Burger King's parent company.
Oscar Mayer developed the hot dogs specifically for Burger King, Macedo said.
"We think we have something that's pretty good," he said. "It tastes like a backyard barbecue."