McDonald's Finally Out-Burgers Burger King

Call it the triple threat, but it looks like McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) has finally landed a punch at Burger King Worldwide (NYSE: BKW  ) in the ongoing, never-ending burger wars. Will the latest simple move by McDonald's help it fight its way out of the corner it has found itself backed into?

Source: McDonald's.

Size matters
Recall that in 2013 and into early 2014, McDonald's left its guard down and allowed Burger King to land blow after blow. While McDonald's almost quit marketing its classic signature great sellers such as the Big Mac. It instead chose to focus on new silly creations such as the Mighty Wings and McFish Bites. Burger King seized the opportunity by launching the Big King sandwich, an obvious copycat to the Big Mac.

And it worked. While Burger King has been seeing same-store sales climb quarter after quarter, McDonald's domestic same-store number has been clipped month after month, including another 1% drop for May. To add insult to injury, Burger King increased the beef content in its Big King by 25% bigger than the Big Mac and flaunted it in advertising as "size matters."

It looks like McDonald's got the memo
No, I'm not talking about the new Bacon Clubhouse Burger, though it was a good attempt it didn't seem to be enough to put McDonald's back in the black. What I'm referring to isn't even new -- it's the triple cheeseburger.

It's simple, it's been around forever (though mostly unknown to many), and now it's only two bucks and being promoted heavily by McDonald's. Cheaper than the Big King, and the third patty puts it over the top with 20% more beef at 4.8 ounces, compared to the 4.0-ounce Big King.

It's basically a Big Mac without the secret sauce and with a third patty in place of a third bun in the middle. Burger King said size matters, and perhaps McDonald's finally listened. Of course, both chains have even bigger burgers with the double quarter pounder from McDonald's and the Double Whopper from Burger King, but the triple cheeseburger and the Big King are the two warriors in the arena for this round.

Back to basics
The triple cheeseburger is nothing special in terms of innovation, and that's why it just might work. In terms of domestic growth, the trouble McDonald's seems to find itself in is from trying too hard to reinvent itself and overcomplicate its kitchen.

The triple cheeseburger is simple -- and cheap -- not just for consumers, for but the kitchen, too. There are no new ingredients that aren't already used for a variety of other menu items. And the sandwich seemed to have worked very well in the 1990s, right around the same price point; hopefully McDonald's is learning not to fix what isn't broken.

Source: McDonald's.

Of course, inflation means $2 in 1993 was worth a lot more than it is now, so McDonald's will likely realize far less profit per burger this time around. But if it jump-starts traffic in the restaurants, it's a good move. Besides, most people will also order a drink and fries, both of which have extremely high profit margins at between 90% and 95% for soda and over 75% for French fries. 

It will be interesting to see in the coming months if McDonald's really does have its groove back this time around, or if it's another head fake as Burger King continues to chip away market share. We should hear more from both companies in late July.

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Read/Post Comments (9) | Recommend This Article (37)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2014, at 2:10 PM, smilingdon wrote:

    Size that matters? So does salt, cholesterol and calories.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2014, at 2:15 PM, johnnyrh wrote:

    This article is pretty funny coming on the heels of all the media reports last week of the Consumer Reports study finding that Mickey D's has the worst burger in the industry...............but that finding is no surprise to anyone who has tried their swill in recent years .

    Maybe Mcd's will need a bailout. LOL

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2014, at 4:12 PM, tocan wrote:

    Make the Big Mac a real Big Mac I don't care about all of your other sandwiches or you should just call your best sandwich little mac. Wake up and smell the (roses) Big Mac!!!!!!!!!

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2014, at 5:52 PM, SupportTheSecond wrote:

    Haven't been to them in years and I don't believe I am missing much.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2014, at 9:15 PM, JohanStrauss wrote:

    Whataburger. Just sayin'.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2014, at 10:14 PM, RHO1953 wrote:

    McDonalds does some things really well. My grandson loves their hotcakes breakfast, I just have the coffee. But their service is ass kicking compared to the alternative fast food joints nearby. The place is cleaner, and the help is faster and more helpful, and the food shows up in a fraction of the time. Can they improve? Surely, they could start with a decent burger for the times when I want one of those, which is rarely. The Hardees down the street is a cluster****, it takes ten minutes to get anything at all, the coffee is crap, the help is lousy, they can't get out of their own way. Their burgers are better, but a burger meal there will run to ten dollars and take fifteen minutes to get. I just eat at home for the most part, I eat bread only rarely, and no processed foods, except for special occasions.

  • Report this Comment On July 06, 2014, at 10:37 PM, Robertbob wrote:

    Just have to wonder who rights this stuff and in who's favor. I have heard that McDonald's does not use American burger. Has anybody noticed that nobody advertises that they sell "Hamburgers", they now only say "burgers", and just what does that mean?

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2014, at 12:25 PM, GeaugaTruck wrote:

    Not only does size count, but taste counts for more. The flame-broiled burger from Burger King tastes way better than the grilled & "kept warm in the drawer" McDonalds burger.

  • Report this Comment On July 07, 2014, at 1:15 PM, chrismireya wrote:

    McDonald's? Burger King? Nah.

    I'll take...

    1.) In-N-Out (cheap and totally worth its weight in gold)

    2.) Whataburger (cooked to order the way you want)

    3.) Five Guys (about half as good as In-N-Out but still better than all but two other fast food burger restaurants on Earth)

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