Burger King's Stuffed Burger
2010 was very much the year of weird fast food, with such gimmicky offerings as a sandwich with fried chicken in place of bread ( KFC's ( YUM) infamous Double Down) and a quesadilla filled with macaroni and cheese. And while 2011 couldn't quite match that level of fast food lunacy, the year kicked off with a bang when Burger King ( BKC) introduced the BK Stuffed Steakhouse Burger in January. The burger featured jalapenos and cheddar cheese, both eminently reasonable toppings for a burger. But the toppings weren't on top -- they were incorporated into the meat of the patty, little chunks of flavor to encounter as you eat. As we said at the time, Burger King didn't invent the idea of a burger stuffed with its toppings -- blue cheese-stuffed burgers, for instance, can be a culinary delight. But we sampled the Stuffed Steakhouse Burger and found it to be a step down from its usual burger offerings. And given that Burger King has been pulling out all the stops in a desperate bid to play catch-up in the fast food wars -- including a brief flirtation with a "Pizza Burger" in 2010 -- we feel comfortable tossing this sandwich in the "gimmick" category. The menu item has since been discontinued, and unless it attained a McRib-style cult status we're not aware of, we don't expect to see it again. To Strauss, though, that doesn't matter. Gimmick though it may be, the burger was meant to project an air of innovation while strengthening the customer's connection to the brand. "Imagine if you just had the same burger once a week for three years: You'd need to be reminded of why it was great to begin with," he explains. "In my perception, it wasn't about trying to sell you a new burger, but about reminding you why you loved Burger King's burgers to begin with ... And at the same time, it's designed to get your attention." Even if Burger King never expected the Stuffed Steakhouse Burger to take off, creating this strange product projected an air of innovation and change while simultaneously reminding customers how much they love Burger King's staple menu items.