Burger King (BK) is the second-largest fast-food hamburger chain in the world. In the early 21st century, Burger King claimed to have 14,000 stores in nearly 100 countries, and its headquarters are located in Miami, Florida. According to the company, Burger King was started in 1954 by James W. McLamore and David Edgerton in Miami. However, other sources trace Burger King back to Insta-burger King, a venture founded in Jacksonville, Florida by Keith Kramer and Matthew Burns in 1953. McLamore and Edgerton sold their first franchise in 1959, and Burger King soon became a national chain. Then, the company expanded outside the United States in 1963 with a store in Puerto Rico.
Persistently lagging behind McDonald’s in both sales and profitability, Burger King underwent many changes of ownership and corporate governance. In 1967, it was sold to the Phillipsburg company, which in the late 1970s, brought in Donald N. Smith, a former McDonald executive, who revitalized Burger King by expanding the menu and tightening control of franchises. Phillipsburg itself was later acquired by the British company Grand Metropolitan PLC in 1989. Grand Met became Diageo PLC after its merge with the Irish brewer Guinness PLC in 1997. Diago sold Burger king in 2002 to a consortium of private equity financiers, namely the Texas Pacific Group, Bain Capital, and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners.
In mid-1993, James Adamson succeeded Gibbons as (Chief Executive Officer) CEO, a position for which he had been groomed since joining Burger King as its Chief Operating Officer (COO) in 1991. Adamson, who actively sought out the advice of company co-founder James W. McLamore, moved to build on Gibbons’s successes as well as rectify the failures. Adamson’s most important initiatives addressed key areas such as quality, value, and image. He improved the quality of products many times, like in 1994 when the size of the BK Broiler, the BK Big Fish, and the hamburger was increased by more than 50 percent. He belatedly added a “value menu” after most other fast-food chains had already done so, as well as offering special promotions, such as the 99¢ Whopper. Related to both value and image was the long-awaited successful ad campaign, “Get your burger’s worth,” created by Ammirati Puris Lintas, and emphasizing a back-to-basics approach and good value. The focus on the basics also led to a simplification of what had become an unwieldy menu–40 items were eliminated. The new focus was on burgers–with an emphasis on flame broiling–fries, and drinks. By early 1995, Adamson’s program was paying off as same-store sales increased 6.6 percent for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1995. Morale among the franchisees had improved dramatically as well.
Adamson resigned suddenly in early 1995 to head Flagstar Cos. of Spartanburg, South Carolina. In July, Robert C. Lowes, who had been a chief officer for Grand Met Foods Europe, was named CEO. Later that same year, he became chairman of Burger King and gained a position on the Grand Met executive committee, a move that signaled Grand Met’s commitment to Burger King and the strength of the company’s resurgence. Lowes soon set some lofty goals for Burger King, including $10 billion in systemwide sales. In 2010, 3G Capital, an investment group controlled by the Brazilian billionaire Jorge Paulo Lemann, took over the company in a leveraged buyout. By 2012, Burger King shares were being sold to the public again, but 3G retained a controlling interest. Burger King Worldwide merged with the Canadian doughnut and fast-food chain Tim Hortons in 2014, and a new parent company called Restaurant Brands International (RBI) was formed. In what some critics saw as a tax-avoiding “corporate inversion” move, RBI was headquartered in Oakville, Ontario, Canada. A large hamburger called the Whopper is Burger King’s signature product. The Whopper was introduced in 1957, at a time when its competitor McDonald’s was still selling only small hamburgers. The chain took a new direction by adding hot dogs to the menu in 2016.