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Burger King adds mom-friendly foods as Whopper lovers lose jobs

Oatmeal, Asian chicken salads and smoothies are being added to the Burger King menu. And the King mascot is gone. 

Associated Press

Oatmeal, Asian chicken salads and smoothies are being added to the Burger King menu. And the King mascot is gone. 

It's enough to make a Burger King fan choke on his Whopper.

Strawberry smoothies, Asian chicken salads and oatmeal are coming. Miami-based Burger King Holdings is broadening its offerings to attract more women and families as its core customers — Whopper-munching 16- to 34-year-old males — endure the highest unemployment of any group.

The jobless rate among men ages 20 to 24 was 15.7 percent in July, according to the Labor Department, while the rate for men ages 25 to 34 was 10.2 percent — both above the national average.

The makeover at the second-largest U.S. burger chain risks going too far too fast, said Joel Cohen, president of the Cohen Restaurant Marketing Group in Raleigh, N.C.

"It's a dramatic switch, so you're in danger of losing loyal customers who loved the original brand," he said. When McDonald's embraced a more upscale cafe vibe, it was "gradual and not as intrusive as the Burger King change."

Burger King has been revamping its strategy since 3G Capital Inc., a New York-based private equity firm, bought the chain for about $3.93 billion in October. Revenue declined 4.3 percent to $596 million and net income fell 13 percent to $42.8 million for the three months ended June 30.

"We're known as the best place for burgers; we're going to continue that," said Steve Wiborg, executive vice president and president of Burger King North America. "But we also need to broaden our target."

Burger King rolled out oatmeal nationwide last week. Smoothies and salads are now being tested in 100 stores. The new menu items follow by less than a year the debut of McDonald's fruit and maple oatmeal and mango-pineapple smoothies. Last year, Burger King introduced McDonald's-style breakfast fare, including pancake and sausage platters and flavored coffees.

"We've neglected mom, children and families," said David Ostrowe, who owns 10 Burger Kings in Oklahoma. The healthier items will help bring back "some of the families that we've lost to competitors," he said.

Burger King is retiring its creepy mascot, the King, and moving away from the raunchy humor that typified its commercials in recent years.

While the flame-broiled burgers and irreverent ads appealed to young guys, the new smoothies and salads may be a harder sell.

"I'm not into that stuff," said Richard Ramirez, a 28-year-old printing plant supervisor, as he munched on a Whopper last month at a Chicago Burger King.

Burger King adds mom-friendly foods as Whopper lovers lose jobs 08/29/11 [Last modified: Monday, August 29, 2011 10:32pm]

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