The Operations Strategies of Burger King

The concept of the strategy and the operations of delivery system are unified as is commonly true in service systems. In a very real sense, the operations strategy is the strategy. To be sure the basic strategy must reflect coordination with advertising and marketing, financial plans and budgets, and so on. But if the operation strategy fails, the concept does too it is the key to the success or failure of the entire enterprise.

The implementation of the operations strategy must reflect the subtle differences that each enterprise’ strategy implies. Therefore, we need to ask the how the differences between the strategies of McDonald’s and Burger King are implemented in their operations strategies. How do the processing systems take account of these differences? How has the technology employed been adapted to the strategy? How do the control systems reflect the differences? Later, we will also consider how Benihana’s operations strategy is designed to achieve the seemingly anomalous objectives of fast standardized food, large average check, exotic surroundings, and a show.


The two hamburger fast food giants seemingly have similar strategies – high volume; low prices; limited menu; fast, courteous service; and controlled quality. But Burger King has appealed to differing consumer preferences with its Have It your Way slogan. The customization of Burger King’s product is centered on pickles and lettuce – the dressing of the burger not on a fundamentally wider menu choice.

Otherwise, Burger King emulates McDonald’s with a production line approach to food service.

The relative positioning of the two systems in terms of the product – process grid is shown in figure. McDonald’s is at the high end of the product volume scale, and it certainly has a line flow process. Having chosen to standardize rather completely, it is positioned slightly above the center line. Its choice emphasizes cost and availability. Burger King has lower volume and a modified line flow process, but it has chosen to offer some choice, emphasizing flexibility to a degree. Thus, differences imposed on the operations strategy by the enterprise strategy are likely to deal with the issue of customization.

Process Flow and Technology:

Figures provide aggregate level flows of the activities of the customers and servers and manufacture of hamburgers for McDonald’s and Burger King. Of course, there are other processing activities for other sandwiches, fries, and so forth, but we have concentrated on the hamburger, since most orders involve them.

As far as the customer is concerned, there are two important differences. At McDonald’s, paying occurs at the time the food is ordered and delivered, whereas at Burger King, the order must be prepared before it can be delivered to the customer, with payment occurring in between. Orders must be transmitted, instead of simply being filled, in order to accommodate the special orders. The second difference is in the total of waiting plus service time – 2 minutes, 3 seconds for McDonald’s versus 4 minutes, 5 seconds for Burger King – a net effect of the impact of the small customization offered by Burger King on customer service.

The server tasks are combined in one person for McDonald’s they include taking orders, presenting the food to the customer, and accepting payment and making change. The need to accommodate customization at Burger King is solved by the loudspeaker system to communicate the orders and a counter person to assemble the orders on a tray and give the completed orders to the customers. Having two people in the service role does not mean that the direct labor costs have doubled because there is a different balancing of the required tasks at Burger King, but it does indicate that the small customization offered by Burger King has impacted the system design.

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