Wendy's Tops Burger King as No. 2 Burger Chain in America; BK Fans Furious

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Even Krusty the Clown -- purveyor of The Ribwich -- doesn't want what the creepy Burger King King is offering.
Yesterday, it was announced that for the first time in 43 years, Wendy's had bested Burger King to become the No. 2 burger chain in America (behind perennial No. 1, McDonald's) based on sales alone.

The Wall Street Journal reported that "Wendy's had sales of $8.5 billion in 2011, compared with $8.4 billion for Burger King." McDonald's, the paper said, blew both out of the water with $34.2 billion in sales in the same time period. This is unsurprising, as the Golden Arches have maintained a growth of 26 percent in the last five years compared to the 9 percent at Wendy's. Burger King flatlined in this area, showing no sales growth at all since 2006.

And although that last figure is difficult to defend, Houston Press assistant music editor Craig Hlavaty was adamant yesterday that Burger King had been swindled out of its No. 2 title. I was just as adamant that it was a long time coming (due in part to my steadfast belief that the Burger King King is the creepiest mascot ever, including the Quizno's rats), and that my own beloved Wendy's was finally enjoying a well-deserved moment in the sun.

Hlavaty and I share a cubicle and argue about a lot of things, including the green fashion shorts I wore to work yesterday and his tendency to interrupt nearly every article I'm writing to show me semi-NSFW photos of Christina Hendricks on the roughly 4,000 Christina Hendricks Tumblrs that he monitors all day long.

But this Burger King vs. Wendy's argument brought out a far more vicious side in us than previously seen. I've transcribed the debate below.

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This disparity cannot be stressed enough. By comparison, check out Wendy's.
Katharine: How can you possibly like Burger King? It "flame broils" everything, which I'm fairly certain is some kind of fast food industry code for "marinate in grease trap scrapings and grill until rubbery and blackened."

Craig: Wendy's tastes like someone cooked all their food by putting it under a heat lamp at an old folks' home. In fact, I think that Wendy's is the old folks' home of fast food chains. The only thing a Frosty is good for is satisfying the hunger pangs of a pregnant woman. What can you say about a place whose fries need to be dipped in chocolate ice cream to be palatable, for a woman that is going through a monstrous metamorphosis of building a woman inside her belly, and would eat a sneaker if she had the craving?

Katharine: I'm beginning to think that you've never had the fries at Wendy's. They're second only to Jack In The Box curly fries as the best fast food fries around (yes, that includes the over-salted sticks at McDonald's). They require nothing other than a light dusting of salt and Wendy's ketchup -- a ketchup that can hold its ground with Whataburger's fancy ketchup, I might add.

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This actually happened.
Craig: The number one fast food chain is McDonald's, and the true and righteous number two is Burger King. Think of McD's as the Beatles, and Burger King as the Stones. Flames building, hot, cheesed beef, and that onion ring sauce, which is good on everything. I could eat the onion ring sauce by itself. If I was hungry on the side of the road and Wendy's was giving out free, homely, tasteless burgers, I would rather eat that onion ring sauce.

Katharine: It sounds like the only thing BK has going for it -- according to you -- is onion ring sauce. What kind of fast food restaurant builds its empire on a single condiment? BK's fries are gnarly, its patties remarkably tough and its toppings consistently lackluster. And the one in Montrose remains the only fast food restaurant that's a relic of the neighborhood's rougher days, and not in that charming, nostalgic way. It's just plain scary.

Over at Wendy's, its square beef patty is so big and juicy that a round bun can't contain it. Its bacon tastes like real bacon. It uses fancy red onions on its burgers. (You have to pay extra for "good" toppings like that at BK, as with its ridiculously named "Chef's Choice" burgers.) Its 99-cent value menu contains items I actually want to eat, like baked potatoes and a Jr. Cheeseburger Deluxe that's really too big to be called a "junior" anything. And even though its chili has beans, it's damn tasty -- especially on top of one of those $1 potatoes.

Craig: BK just tastes right, like when you know that you love someone and will do anything to protect them. BK reminds me of the first time I saw my little brother just after he was born. Mainly because I was six years old and I had just eaten a Whopper on my own since no one was watching me in the waiting room. Husky jeans ahoy.

BK has tons going for it, besides that ring sauce. I celebrate all of their burgers, especially anything involving barbecue sauce, cheese, or any mixture of the two. There is something about that flame-grilled taste that puts me in a land of contentment. At Wendy's they use too much bread and I get a headache. Some of their smaller burgers remind me of glorified store-bought frozen White Castles.



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16 comments
TTTWLAM
TTTWLAM

Historically, Wendy's has always had the most frustrating fries.

One visit, they'll be amazing and crisp and perfectly salted.  The very next they'll be soggy, limp, and salt-less.  (I realize that's a peril at every fast-food joint, but Wendy's seems plagued by it.)

And the Mustard Whoppers now taste nothing like they did when I was kid.  I used to enjoy them, but now they're terrible.

Dwilkinson
Dwilkinson

BK and Wendy's are both awful and barely even qualify as food.  On the rare occasion I'll even go for fast food, it's going to be Taco Bell's delicious new Dorito shell taco.  I think we can all agree on the supremacy of the Bell.

Christopher Conaton
Christopher Conaton

Let's go back to the fries. Both BK and Wendy's have updated their fries in the past 2-3 years. But Wendy's new fries are awesome, while BK's are only marginally better than their old ones. I don't usually eat burgers at either of these places, but Wendy's nuggets are a damn sight better than BK's chicken fries or even their old school chicken tenders.

Tim
Tim

I don't get the story here:

Sure, if we lived in some isolated town where there were three restaurants but the town could only support two...

and, if one of those restaurants was a runaway hit so it was pretty much down to the other two... and, if you liked one of them much better than the other...

and, if the food served at those two was very different and you didn't want to lose the one that was your favorite...

Then, I could see getting even slightly worked up about this.  As it is, the only people who really should have a dog in the fight about BK sales versus Wendy's sales are the people who work there and the investors/franchisees. 

SirRon
SirRon

How predictable that Texans wouldn't be able to discuss Wendy's and BK without talking about Whataburger.

Can we PLEASE get more of the Shilcutt-Hlavaty chronicles in the future... every week or so... on some water cooler foodie topic... please?

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

All 3 recently came out with "gourmet" style sandwiches, and BK easily won with their Chef's Choice.  Wendy's "W" sandwich was the most disappointing of the 3, especially due to their supposed revamping of all their ingredients.  The Whopper vs. the Dave's hot & juicy burger's can be debatable, but one thing that cannot be argued is the Chicken sandwiches.  Wendy's dominates in that category by a mile and the only place that holds a candle is Chick-fil-a.  Have you seen the chicken sandwiches at BK?  Laughable.

Dana
Dana

I would have deffinately gone with BK as my fast chain of choice until I started eating DQ burgers. Y'all should really throw that into the mix. Also blizzards!

Jarod Frank
Jarod Frank

I'd probably choose BK over Wendy's as far as your standard burger goes. I like the sesame seeds, the way the cheese sticks to your burger wrapper, the onion rings option (with the awesome sauce), and the crown shaped chicken nuggets. I do enjoy the small chili poured over top of the $1 baked potato trick at Wendy's though, and the nuggets aren't terrible. The fries however are terrible at both. I think BK just started selling Wendy's old fries, and the new Wendy's fries taste just about the same as the old ones despite the skin.

I feel the need to bring this up...something has happened to BK's Original Chicken Sandwich. Those were SO good when I was a kid; now they are borderline inedible. 

Now I'm going to invalidate my opinions completely by saying I'd choose both over Whataburger. No value menu at WB, hit or miss fries, and that long ass wait. Only thing WB has going for me is biscuits and gravy (which you can get without sausage if you say you want the chicken gravy), and the chicken tenders with said "chicken gravy."

Wyatt
Wyatt

Whataburger wins; Wendy's chicken (fried or "grilled") is vastly superior, as are its salads; both Wendy's and BK's burgers make me kind of sick. Also, Frosties

Albert Nurick
Albert Nurick

I think both Wendy's and Burger King have gotten left far behind by the new interest in burgers.  My first Wendy's burger was a revelation, but in the subsequent years they've steadfastly refused to improve the product.  Same thing with Burger King - the burger tastes the way it has for decades, and that's not a good thing.  New craptastic condiments don't change the basic equation of a hamburger patty cooked at some point in the distant past isn't going to taste very good, and dropping a slice of low quality cheese on said lukewarm patty is not a recipe for delight.  We live in Houston - there's no need to go to one of these places.  Ever.

Brittanie Shey
Brittanie Shey

It took you to the end to pull out the J. Bacon Cheeseburger card? This alone makes Wendy's vastly superior to McDonald's, even.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

There's no real story here; we were just funning. Lighten up, Francis.  ;)

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard

Actually, Wendy's completely revamped their burger recently.  Doesn't taste that different, but even they knew they had to improve it from what it was.

Craig Hlavaty
Craig Hlavaty

My love of Burger King verrrrrry far aside, just because something is local doesn't make it good.

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