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Trick Out Your Whopper?

Leave it to the King. Burger King (NYSE: BKC  ) is working on a new Whopper Bar concept that will offer a wider array of its signature burgers in a smaller, hipper footprint.

Targeting small, high-traffic spaces like airports and casinos, the first Whopper Bar may open later this year.

The description and concept art border on the hokey. Plasma televisions set the mood, but not by broadcasting games or news updates. They show flames ablaze, alluding to the Whopper's flame-broiled edge over McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) fried fare, but perhaps evoking the kitsch of a faux fireplace.

Another selling point: The quarter-pound burgers will be topped in front of customers. Still, that's the kind of kitchen exhibitionism that only works in haute cuisine. I can't imagine getting any kind of rush out of seeing a pimply teen slapping sauteed onions or dabs of barbecue sauce on my sandwich. 

However, it's hard to argue against the company's decisions lately. BK has posted 16 consecutive quarters of positive comps, an enviable streak in these times of fickle taste buds and empty pockets.

Some specialized burger concepts have fared well. Chains like Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (Nasdaq: RRGB  ) and Fog Cutter's Fatburger are ramping up expansion, even as several other fast-food and casual-dining chains are shuttering stores.

This doesn't mean that flipping burgers is the key to success. Shares of Wendy's (NYSE: WEN  ) , Hardee's and Carl's Jr. parent CKE Restaurants (NYSE: CKR  ) , and Steak 'n Shake (NYSE: SNS  ) are each trading at roughly half of last year's highs.

I'll cut Burger King a little slack until it proves mortal. As cheesy as the company's toppings bar sounds -- and despite chains like California Pizza Kitchen (Nasdaq: CPKI  ) recently abandoning their own attempts at smaller quick-service stores -- the Whopper is a strong enough brand to break out into a solo project.

Let's just hope that the fiery plasma displays don't look as corny as they sound.

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  • Report this Comment On April 03, 2008, at 8:56 AM, brandingo wrote:

    That design is almost as "hokey" as having Aristotle as your middle name. Makes you sound so smart.

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