BK holding side order of healthy thoughts

2nd April 2008, Comments 0 comments

Chain’s vice president is giving the customers however way they want to, despite calls for healthier food.

2 April 2008

SPAIN - José Cil tends to eat at one of Spain's 425 Burger King restaurants at least once a week, requesting the American fast-food chain's star product, the Whopper, without onion but with mustard.

"That's the concept of Burger King - you can eat its products however you want," Cil, the chain's vice president for Western Europe and the Mediterranean, says proudly.

Even in this age of healthy eating and worries about obesity, Burger King is sticking to its philosophy, not only giving clients a choice of extra sauce or holding the pickles. It also ensures that its menu remains replete with some of the biggest burgers on the market, usually served up with a side order of fries.

The strategy of offering bigger meals rather than healthier alternatives has put the company at loggerheads with health authorities, including the Spanish government, which in 2006 demanded that it cease advertising a burger weighing in at almost 1,000 calories.

"Our strategy in the future will remain the same as it has been until now: give clients what they want," Cil insists.

Wine with a 'joper'
Burger King opened its first restaurant in Spain in Madrid in 1975. Unaccustomed to fast food, customers would typically sit down and order wine with their joper, as the chain's main burger came to be known.

Now soft drinks are the favoured beverage at the chain's 439 restaurants in Spain and Portugal, 90 percent of which are franchises. Last year, they reported sales of EUR 365 million, a figure that Cil is confident will continue to grow in spite of the recent health food craze.

"Only four out of 10 people here eat fast food. That means we've got another 60 percent of people creating an opportunity for us to keep growing," Cil says.

However, it remains to be seen how well greasy burgers will continue to sell to an increasingly health conscious public. Even Burger King's main rival McDonald's has attempted to clean up its image, modernising its eateries and promoting healthier items such as salads.

Cil, however, believes that when it comes to fast food the 850-calorie Whopper will remain king. He does make some concessions toward children, however, promising that in the future the chain will not target them with advertising for burgers of more than 500 calories.

BK's current children menus weigh in at between 450 and 800 calories, around half the recommended daily intake of a six-year-old boy.

[Copyright El Pais / Cristina Delgado 2008]

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