Can new coffee perk up BK's breakfast biz?

Burger King is waking up to Starbucks, but will it be enough to rule the breakfast world dominated by McDonald's?

By InvestorPlace Feb 17, 2010 1:29PM

InvestorPlaceBurger King (BKC) has been sleepwalking through breakfast sales for a long time, and a new partnership with Starbucks (SBUX) announced on Tuesday isn't likely to be the wake-up call the company needs to catch archrival McDonald's (MCD).


By September, Burger King said it will replace its current BK Joe coffee line at some 7,250 locations with Seattle's Best Coffee, the former hometown rival that Starbucks acquired in 2003. Prices for the 100% Arabica-bean coffee will range from $1 to $2.79, with the option to add some of Starbucks' bells and whistles like flavored syrup and whipped cream.

Burger King has been a perennial and distant No. 2 to McDonald's in the fast-food industry, and it will take more than a sexy deal with Starbucks to start eating away at McDonald's lead.


McDonald's dominates the fast-food breakfast business, and its success in the morning has been credited with ongoing improvements in same-store sales, which did well throughout the recession. (Read: Global Focus Paying Off for McDonald's.)


Burger King, on the other hand, recently reported that quarterly same-store sales fell 2%, while total U.S. and Canadian sales were down 3.3% for the same period. The company also reported that it ended the period with 12,000 locations, about a third the number that McDonald's has.


Burger King did not make it clear why its current BK Joe coffee program flopped with customers, but BK management is hoping that selling a "branded" brew will caffeinate their breakfast business and improve their competitive position.


The program has several potential weaknesses. The partnership relies on the assumption that people want Starbucks coffee. The company's sales are an indication that there is a wide demand for its products, but Starbucks has not done well in taste tests at research firms, including Consumer Reports. BK Joe may taste just as good as Starbucks.


What's more, McDonald's morning success has not just been because of its McCafe coffee line. The company also revamped its entire morning menu and offers "value" prices on a number of items. Burger King will have to match or better McDonald's in those areas if it wants to fatten up its market share.


This deal isn't necessarily the best idea for Starbucks either, which has struggled throughout the recession. Starbucks was expanding aggressively when the economic storm hit, and the chain had to fire 12,000 people and cut its store count. (Read: Starbucks Brings the Heat Back to Coffee Wars.)  It is only now recovering from the effects of a drop in traffic to its locations.


And offering Starbucks coffee at Burger King could hurt sales of Starbucks coffee at its own retail locations. It is impossible to guess how much it could cut into Starbucks revenues, but customers are not likely to stop at a coffee shop and a fast-food joint during the same morning.


Bottom line: Burger King and Starbucks have another thing coming if they think this deal is going to be enough to rule the breakfast world.  If you want to know which coffee stocks are a buy, then Perk Up Your Portfolio with These Coffee Stocks.


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Nov 21, 2010 2:11AM

Coffee.   Coffee was the best.  BK Joe... It was a frozen instant coffee that had a great taste and a smooth finish. 


Seattle's "Best" is the worst cup of coffee I have ever tasted.  It is bitter, too strong, and has a hard finish, leaving a bad taste in your mouth. It tastes like boiled pig crap!


Why anyone would change from a great tasting coffee to this Seattle's Best swill is beyond me. 


Subway made this switch also, about the same time.  I suspect  there is a really great salesman at Seattle's Best.  You would have to be a great salesman to get people to buy this slop.  


My advise to Burger King is to get back to your old BK Joe.    You are giving coffee away on Fridays now.  How many folks stop in for a cup?   Not enough...  hard to even give away a really bad cup of coffee.



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