It's on! Tampa's Checkers challenges Burger King to a wiener smackdown

After Burger King puts $1.99 hot dogs on its menu, the Tampa chain lowers its prices for a smackdown.
Checkers lowered prices to 79 cents for a hot dog in its “#wienersmackdown” with Burger King after the latter debuted $1.99 hot dogs. Times
Checkers lowered prices to 79 cents for a hot dog in its “#wienersmackdown” with Burger King after the latter debuted $1.99 hot dogs.Times
Published February 26 2016
Updated February 27 2016

You can get a burger from a fast-food drive-through on pretty much any corner in any city.

But a hot dog?

When Burger King announced it would start selling grilled Oscar Mayer wieners for $1.99 earlier this month, it started a feud over who is king of the fast-food wiener.

Burger King claims it is now the largest chain to sell hot dogs across the country. But Checkers & Rally's Restaurants shot back with a full-page advertisement in USA Today this week, announcing the Tampa-based fast-food chains will sell hot dogs for just 79 cents, and to remind the world that Checkers & Rally's has been selling hot dogs for more than 30 years.

They even invented a clever hashtag: #wienersmackdown.

"That's right, just 79 cents, compared to a buck ninety-nine at Burger King. Overcompensating, anyone?" the ad reads. "So swing by any Checkers or Rally's and get a wiener that will treat you like a king."

"When Burger King made their announcement, we laughed," said Terri Snyder, chief marketing officer of Checkers & Rally's, in a statement. "We're engaged in a fun, aggressive and provocative Wiener War with Burger King. And it's a war we plan to win. You can get one of our great dogs for less than half the price of theirs."

It doesn't look like Miami-based Burger King is fighting back, outside of the constant promotion of the new grilled and chili cheese dogs. The company hasn't engaged in the #wienersmackdown social media chatter.

Burger King tested hot dog and chili cheese dog sales in five markets last year before announcing it would roll out wiener sales in 7,100 locations this year.

"The introduction of grilled dogs just made sense to our guests and for our brand," said Alex Macedo, president of the North America market for Burger King, in a statement. "We're applying over 60 years of flame-grilling expertise with the Whopper sandwich to make grilled dogs the next great American icon."

Apparently, the hot dog industry is up. Americans eat more than 20 billion hot dogs a year, according to food research firm NPD Group. The hot dog and sausage industry grew by 4.1 percent to $165 billion in 2014, according to a November 2014 report from research firm IBISWorld. Hot dog sales contributed to Sonic Drive-In growth the same year, according to an earnings report that year, when the restaurant chain debuted two new hot dog items — chili cheese pretzel dogs and a cheesy bread dog.

There's a handful of other chains that have had hot dogs on the menu for years, such as Dairy Queen and 7-Eleven. Or Sam's Club and Costco Wholesale food counters. Even Home Depot. Portillo's will soon sell Chicago dogs in Florida from a new location in Brandon.

It's still too early to tell if the whole wiener thing will catch on at Burger King. The company has launched some pretty wacky food campaigns in the past. For Halloween, the fast-food chain debuted the A.1. Halloween Whopper on a bun that was dyed black. And remember the bacon sundae from 2012?

Burger King isn't afraid to go totally nuts. In 2009, the chain offered a Whopper with seven patties for the launch of Windows 7. (It was only available in Japan, and for like $17.) Also in Japan, Burger King ran a promotion where customers could add 15 more strips of bacon to a burger for just $1.24. And one time, Burger King took pumpkin spice too far with a "pumpkin bomb" burger, which had fried pumpkin strips on it.

Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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