Creating Safe Restaurants Is Top PriorityBy Jan Hogewoning | Mon, 08/03/2020 - 10:52
Q: Burger King launched a project to create a more environmentally-friendly burger. How has the project progressed and what role did your Mexican collaboration play in it?
A: We are very excited about this project. We started this journey approximately two years ago. As a brand, we believe that delicious, affordable and convenient meals can also be sustainable. As a large global restaurant company, we have a responsibility and an opportunity to advance any kind of issue related to sustainability in the food industry. Livestock contributes around 14.5 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. Cows alone contribute approximately 40 percent of this. We designed a new diet for cows that helps them digest better and release less methane through both farts and burps. Together with Dr. Octavio Castelán Ortega, a Mexican scientist from Universidad Autonoma del Estado de Mexico, and Ermias Kebreab from the University of California Davis in the US, we created a research plan and purchased cows for the project. We began exploring the methane reduction potential of three herbs: cosmos, chamomile and lemongrass. We found that when we incorporated 100g of dried lemongrass into a cow’s diet, we could reduce methane emissions by 33 percent. This is an excellent result. Dr. Castelán was a crucial piece of the investigation and the outcome of the project so we can proudly say that this global solution has a Mexican origin.
A new burger made with beef from this diet has been launched in five cities in the US (Miami, New York, Austin, Portland and Los Angeles). The reception of this initiative has been extremely positive. The formula for the diet is open source and we welcome our competitors to implement it and be part of this larger project. The next step is to work towards making it scalable and commercially available to more franchisees. We are currently working with one of our local beef suppliers in Mexico to make it a reality here next year.
Q: What other sustainability initiatives has Burger King implemented?
A: We believe delicious and affordable food should also include real and high-quality ingredients. Real ingredients mean no colors, flavors, or preservatives from artificial sources. That’s why our brand is working to remove ingredients from artificial sources from our food menus and Burger King Mexico is already in that journey.
In addition, one of my favorite initiatives around sustainability is the Meltdown campaign that we did in the UK. This initiative has to do with removing plastic toys from our kid’s meals while offering to melt down unwanted plastic toys for recycling too. The UK is leading the way as part of a wider commitment from our brand to reduce the use of plastics.
Q: What does the Mexican consumer want from Burger King?
A: Our consumer in Mexico is looking for food quality, excellent service, indulgent products, convenience and an overall great value for money proposition. In terms of indulgent products, we have been ramping up our premium platform over the past couple of years with great success. In 2019, for example, we launched Mango Habanero together with a very engaging and disruptive campaign and we recently launched Stacker King which has been a great success among our guests.
Q: How has your new WhatsApp ordering service been developing?
A: This is one of the ways in which we want to simplify the ordering process for our guests. Creating as many ordering channels as possible is aligned with our approach to offer delicious food in a convenient way. We have been piloting the WhatsApp chatbot with very interesting preliminary results. As you may know, WhatsApp has a significant user base of approximately 57 million people in Mexico. In addition, we expect social media-based ordering to grow tenfold in the next eight to 10 years so playing in this channel is key for us.
Q: How are you adapting to the new normality?
A:. Our main priority during this pandemic has been to ensure the safety of our crew members and our guests. We have strengthened our already high safety and hygiene standards. In addition, we are implementing additional measures to minimize physical contact, we have re-launched our mobile app to better serve and communicate with our guests and we are offering great delivery, drive-thru and take out experiences. Home delivery has been one of the fastest growing channels which is consistent with guests looking for convenience. The surge in demand has also been driven by the increasing popularity of third-party delivery platforms in the country. We have been able to capitalize on this trend even before the COVID crisis started and we have managed to grow our delivery userbase and the level of frequency in which they use this channel. We expect delivery to gain even more relevance going forward but at the same time we acknowledge that our guests love the experience that they receive when visiting our restaurants via the traditional channels too.
Q: Are you considering a change in restaurant size and layouts?
A: Reducing the size of restaurants is something we are evaluating as a brand. Right now, we are piloting alternative restaurant layouts and formats to address the shift to more of an off-premise business. We are excited to see the preliminary results. COVID-19 has definitely accelerated our thinking about what’s to come. Some other brands have started piloting dark kitchens, for example, with good initial results. We are also going to start piloting them in different markets. This is something we would like to start testing in Mexico in the coming months too.
Q: How have you made safety part of your marketing strategy?
A: As I mentioned before, the safety of our crew members and guests is a top priority. Making sure that our guests know what are the measures that we are implementing is key for them to understand the level of commitment that we have towards delivering on this promise. This is going to be an important differentiator when compared to smaller brands that do not have the capacity or the structure to be able to deliver on this.
We currently have around 430 restaurants in Mexico. We are the biggest burger chain in the country in terms of store count. We have also been one of the fastest-growing QSR chains in Mexico over the past couple of years, with consistent double-digit growth. We started this year with an even faster growth which reinforces the strength and position of our brand. Despite the impact of the pandemic, we are confident that in the very near term we will be able to regain the strong sales momentum that we just had a few months ago.
Q: What are the main objectives for this year and the beginning of 2021?
A: Given the pandemic, the most important goal is to guarantee the safety of our crew members and guests by executing our high safety and sanitary standards. We are also working hard to regain the strong sales momentum that we had pre-COVID-19 as restaurants continue to reopen and the authorities start easing dining restrictions. In addition, we want to continue solidifying our digital channel by launching mobile order & pay through our new app, rolling out WhatsApp orders nationwide and continue to constantly optimize our delivery menu and offers. Lastly, we will continue to foster our brand love, which has been built over time and is connected to our solid business results over the past few years.
Burger King is a multinational chain of hamburger restaurants that is part of Restaurant Brands International. In Mexico, it has 430 franchises. Recently, it launched a new burger with a lower methane-emissions footprint