Bruce Horovitz,USA TODAY
The Big Mac-buster is alive, well, and for sale at Burger King.
Burger King's bringing back the Big King - which looks, sounds and arguably tastes a lot like the McDonald's iconic Big Mac - but this time, the company says, it's for good.
The in-your-face move comes at a time competition is heating up as overall sales sputter in the $200 billion fast-food industry. In recent months, Burger King, in particular, has been extra feisty, even rolling out a so-called lower-cal french fry that it dubbed Satisfries. And it's no accident that, at 510 calories, the Big King weighs in at about 40 calories less than the Big Mac.
"Anybody can copy anybody in fast food," says Scott Hume, editor of the BurgerBusiness blog. "It's an easy way to get something new on the menu."
For Burger King, it's a re-creation of the Big King that it rolled out - in limited markets - back in 1997. That version, which did not go national, did not have a middle bun, which the current version does. The Big King also comes with freshly cut lettuce, white onions, pickles, sauce and a sesame seed bun.
But BK executives aren't touting the middle bun much. Rather, they're touting the fire-grilled burgers - which is the key element that separates Burger King from McDonald's in most consumer taste surveys.
"What makes Big King different than any other burger on the market is the unique fire grilling," says chief marketing officer Eric Hirschhorn, in a statement. Burger King executives declined to comment beyond the statement.
The Big King sells for $3.69.
McDonald's executives declined to specifically comment on the new competition. "We're focused on our business and our customers," says spokeswoman Lisa McComb.
The Big Mac is one of McDonald's most iconic menu items. It was created back in 1967 by a Pittsburgh area franchisee and went national one year later. So important is the classic burger to McDonald's that it even opened a Big Mac Museum in North Huntingdon, Pa., in 2007 in celebration of Big Mac's 40th anniversary.
Hume, the fast-food blogger, says he expects Burger King to unleash a major marketing push for its Big King. Most consumers, he says, don't pay much attention to who copies whom. "Everyone has nuggets, and everyone has fries," he says. What consumers do care about, he says, is value, convenience and taste.
For Burger King, all kinds of changes - many of them offbeat - have been instituted since the company was purchased, then taken private in 2010, by 3G Capital, an investment firm overseen by billionaires from Brazil.
One such offbeat PR move also was announced Tuesday. While it's no Graceland, Burger King recently made a $3.69 million offer to purchase Elvis Presley's former home at North Hillcrest Road in Beverly Hills outside of Los Angeles. The offer was rejected.
In a statement, Burger King explained its reason for the keen interest: "He is the original "King."