A burger giant is hoping to be a wiener winner later this month. Burger King parent Restaurants Brands International (QSR -1.81%) announced on Thursday that it will introduce flame-grilled hot dogs to its menu on Feb. 23.
Burger King's Grilled Dogs will be available in two varieties. The classic will be the traditional hot dog, topped with ketchup, mustard, relish, and chopped onions. It will retail for $1.99. A chili and cheese version will sell at a $2.29 price point.
This isn't a seasonal item. It will be a permanent addition. It's a notable achievement, too. Burger King points out that this move will make it the biggest restaurant chain, by unit count, to offer hot dogs.
McDonald's (MCD -0.80%) has sidestepped frankfurters outside of scant instances of regional summertime promotions. Ray Kroc reportedly forbid franchisees from adding hot dogs to the menu, considering them unhygienic. In fact, none of the the leading burger chains serve hot dogs. That changes in two weeks.
This doesn't mean that the "better burger" chains have followed suit. Market darlings Shake Shack (SHAK -0.13%) and Five Guys have offered hot dogs -- split and grilled -- and made them a menu item staple for years. In fact, Shake Shack and Five Guys probably paved the way for Burger King's move.
Restaurant Brands International's Burger King hasn't had a problem copying McDonald's in recent years. It has followed McDonald's into chicken nuggets, smoothies, and even English muffin breakfast sandwiches. Why not copy what's working for the leader? However, as market sentiment has shifted away from Mickey D's -- favoring Shake Shack and Five Guys -- it's not a bad idea to take a page out of their playbook.
Hot dogs may not seem like big money makers for Burger King. They're viewed as cheap. They're easy to make at home. However, they're also very popular. The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council -- yes, that's a thing -- claims that 20 billion hot dogs are consumed in this country every year. That may not make Burger King's serving the stuff stand out, but it's obviously not going to hurt Shake Shack. If anything, the move will actually help Shake Shack, educating the market on the ability to go for a hot dog at a burger restaurant, as consumers seek out more exotic toppings including Shake Shack's fried shallots or the chain's chicken sausage made with chicken, apple, and sage.
Let Burger King try to take frankfurters further. It should only help Shake Shack and Five Guys in the end.