Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Updated Battle Of McDonalds vs. Burger King

In March 2009, while writing the Caponomics segment for the Bulldog Business, I launched an idea known as the "battle of the forces" where I would pit two similar things together, review them both, and then declare which one I preferred. Let's call this a blog post, column formatted version of "This or That," which has become quite the game for people who like to engage in a simple conversation, which strangely enough, I was already engaging in. The first "battle of the forces" I had was for the fast food giants of McDonalds and Burger King. I don't know how it works around you, but around me, McDonalds and Burger King are chief competitors and if you see a McDonalds somewhere down a road, you're sure to find a Burger King to go with it. Both restaurants are known for their burgers, fries, chicken nuggets, and in addition a key product. Both are global sensations, perhaps two of the biggest businesses and most definitely the biggest eateries. Wendy's, which is closing in at number three, is fast growing, but they will remain an "independent candidate" that plays a similar role as H. Ross Perot did in the 1992 presidential election.

Much has changed since I attended both places, so the scoreboard may read differently, given that four years makes a crucial difference.


McDonalds held a reputation as being the unhealthiest of the unhealthy with their incredibly greasy food and fries that were known for being drenched in salt and fried massively in animal fat. When Morgan Spurlock came out with Super Size Me, he put McDonalds under the spotlight while spending thirty days eating nothing but food on the McDonalds menu, having to eat something different everytime. He gained about forty pounds and had to go through a grueling process to shed the weight off. Don Gorske is also known to have eaten Big Macs almost everyday for the last forty-one years. If any restaurant has garnered a reputation for being "junk food junction," it's McDonalds.

In recent years, McDonalds has made an attempt to change their reputation as being "junk food junction" and being "McDonalds: The Restaurant You Can Eat At, Enjoy, and Not Have To Worry," which they have gone in a somewhat decent direction of doing, but that doesn't mean the quality of their food got any better. Their key target was children when they brought Ronald McDonald and his gang of friends (Grimace, Hamburglar, Mayor McCheese, etc.) together and even to the common fast food eater, but now they want people to come in without the worry that McDonalds will be BAD for them.

The result: food that is toned down from the greasy presentation. The last time I remember going, I have had a hamburger, Chicken McNuggets, and fries. The regular burger has a bun, patty, ketchup, pickles, and onions... and I'm not fond of onions chopped up on my burger, even if they look like relish. Luckily, I could remove them quickly. Goes to show you who has the better burger. The McNuggets are something I'm not fond of, because the breading is so dry and the chicken is just so chewy that I'm better off skipping this portion of the meal. The fries always seemed to be what made up the best part of the meal. Unfortunately, I feel they have become shriveled and wet, without the assertive taste from way back when.

I don't see McDonalds as being the hot restaurant they once were, even on the standpoint of what they have to offer with regard to their advertisements. The Filet O' Fish commercials ("give me back that Filet O' Fish") were the last good thing going for them. Aside from the "fishy, fishy!" commercials, nothing sticks out. The only time I seek out a McDonalds is when that is the only place worth going to, which in many cases there is always a place that's worth visiting. So unless you have picky children that are so meticulous that you have no other option, look elsewhere. At least the food is somewhat edible. Verdict: 4/10

Burger King

I have always liked Burger King over McDonalds; in addition, I will seek a Burger King when for some reason I have the urge for burgers and fries in the way that fast food has to offer. Of course, Burger King is not the greatest place on the face of the planet, but the food is somewhat more decent than Mickey D's. This is, however, up for debate.

Nobody should lead you to the notion that just because they weren't the center of a film means that Burger King is a healthy place to go. Burger King has its quirks just as McDonalds does. It just so happens that Burger King doesn't have signs that are as defining, thus they have been able to fly under the radar and continue to remain consistent with the basic structure of their food. While McDonalds is home to the Big Mac, Burger King is home to the Whopper, which is their central advertising point when the basic burger, nuggets, and fries aren't enough.

Like I do at McDonalds, I order the basics from Burger King as well: a burger, nuggets, and fries. They have always had the better burger, consisting of a bun, patty, ketchup, and pickles... without onions, so it tastes delicious and simple. Not much has changed for the burger, but there has been some changes for the nuggets and fries, one became better while the other became worse. The nuggets became... worse... in the way that they are following the method used by McDonalds in which they are dry and chewy, no more confidently fried tenders. While it's a healthier choice, people come to Burger King to experience a tasty delight. What they have now may solve the healthy option, but that's about it. The fries, on the other hand, have become far better in the way that they are more solid and confident, with a taste that's much more dominant, salty and delicious. It's quite common to hear the method of going to Burger King for the burgers and then to McDonalds for the fries, when in actuality, if your getting your major meal from Burger King, you might as well stay for the fries. At this point, you might as well get everything at Burger King and tell McDonalds to have a nice day.

On the advertisement end, Burger King introduced the creepy looking "King" that eventually retired from the commercials. Though they have continued to attract the people they intend to attract, primarily men between the ages of 16-30, but at the same time appeal to the kids, women, and to others, but they have not made the move of bending over backwards to satisfy everybody. They went with the method of satisfying everybody by being themselves and letting nature do the rest. That's the way that things should be played. If your children have the urge for burgers, nuggets, or fries, or the urge to eat fast food and only fast food, come to Burger King, primarily if they ask specifically or ask with room for leeway. The verdict I gave from the last time compared to this time is no different from 2009, because everything evens out, better fries, worse tenders/nuggets, consistently satisfying burgers. Verdict: 8/10

...and then you have Wendy's

I shouldn't leave Wendy's out of this battle, because they are the strong, "third party" in this equation. Wendy's is drastically growing and taking the attention away from both restaurants. On the advertisement end, Wendy's is massively excelling both restaurants put together. Remember, McDonalds has not had a good commercial since the "give me back that Filet O'Fish" days. Wendy's has had the three guys eating Wendy's with funny interactions, listening to the sea, the cartoon version of the Wendy girl interacting in some way with the commercial, and most recently, the actual Wendy that inspired Dave Thomas to name the restaurant "Wendy's" from the start.

The food is somewhat satisfying, but I would still take Burger King over Wendy's if I had the choice. Their food is of good quality, but it plays the role of a fast food/restaurant joint hybrid better than the others. Perhaps, that is a good thing, but there isn't really an element that sticks out in my mind that would encourage me "hey, let's go to Wendy's," because it's so centered between "let's get fast food" and "let's go out to eat" that it fizzles in the frey when a decision needs to be made.

I would still suggest this place as an alternative when Burger King isn't around. In addition, I will say that Wendy's is making the greatest improvement and Dave Thomas has connected himself with his restaurant better than the others (though Ray Kroc and McDonalds do go hand in hand). Must be from the time he spent with his good friend Colonel Harland Sanders. Verdict: 7/10

My views have not changed from four years ago: Burger King wins the battle! Of course, I know plenty of people that would debate me in this subject. When I first submitted it to my school newsletter, a fellow student found me and immediately told me how he disagreed with my point of view. Granted, he only looked at the scores (at that time, McDonalds had one more point and Burger King was still the same), so that's just about that.

I look at what I expect from a fast food restaurant and that's simple and delicious, without too much of the additional, fluffy pieces that these restaurants try to put on. Sonic failed to make this post, because it failed to appeal to my tastes. When I say don't put something on, I mean don't put something on. White Castle and Checkers just don't appeal to me, which is why they weren't involved. Burger King is the fast food joint that allows you to "have it your way," as their slogan goes, and as far as a fast food restaurant is concerned, that's exactly what they do. Of course, I would rather visit a regular restaurant, but sometimes we like simple, and fast food is simple, which Burger King perfectly satisfies.

One more thing I should point out is both McDonalds and Burger King (I haven't been to Wendy's enough to make a confirmation) advertise their products to look big and mighty, when in reality, their products are smaller and limp. The burgers are like three flat pancakes put together, which is why I order two or three at Burger King, because they still taste good. They're just not huge and filling on the first round. Of course, advertisement is advertisement. The object is to simply get you to come and order.

Fast food should be a moderate option based on your urge. I only encourage moderation, but it's Burger King... or sometimes Wendy's... that I would encourage is that's clearly what you have an urge for.

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