Fast-food giants have grown increasingly desperate to innovate their menus with new concepts as traffic migrates to fast-casual chains like Chipotle Mexican Grill . McDonald's Corporation , TheWendy's Co and Burger King Worldwide have all tried new menu items over the last few years, some have worked while others have not. However, in this ongoing battle, Burger King's latest twist on a burger that probably looks downright awful to many Americans definitely gets an award for outside-the-box thinking.
Burger King gives one for the ages
After Burger King's latest menu flop with Satisfries , the company is most certainly thinking outside the box. Last week, Burger King Japan unveiled its latest Kuro Burger, or Black Burger. Its components -- bread, cheese, and burger -- all sound normal. But, where the Black Burger differs is in its all-black appearance -- its bread and cheese are blackened by bamboo charcoal and it includes a sauce that's made from squid ink.
Burger King goes Goth with all-black burger http://t.co/O0X7nVt98S pic.twitter.com/mvhXc95JG7- David Nelson (@DavidNelsonNews) September 11, 2014
While consumers naturally have different tastes, it's tough to imagine a scenario where health-conscious U.S. consumers would purchase and consume a product that has "charcoal" or "ink" anywhere in the ingredients.
However, it is apparently common for bread and pasta to be died black in some countries with seafood. Burger King Japan is backing the Black Burger, with the company saying that the Black Burger is a chance to overturn the fast-food industry, according to CNBC. The original Premium Kuro Burger was launched in Japan in 2012, with The Huffington Post writing at the time that its debut aligned with the fifth anniversary of Burger King's foray into the Japanese market.
With that said, unless visiting Japan in the next two months, U.S. consumers won't have the opportunity to try this treat.
According to NPD Group, visits to quick-service burger restaurants in America fell 2% in the 12 months prior to May of this year, and in the months that followed, same-store sales data from the likes of McDonald's and Burger King hasn't been much better. While this data is nothing new, fast-food restaurants have grown increasingly creative with menu items in an attempt to find growth drivers, also catering menus to certain regions of the world based on food preferences.
Last year, Wendy's got a boost when it unveiled the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger, which then created a resurgence of sorts for the company. Back in August of last year, after being on the menu for one month, the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger became Wendy's best-selling new product in a decade. In that third quarter of last year, Wendy's same-store sales in North America increased 3.2%, followed by a 3.1% increase in the fourth quarter. Then, Wendy's temporarily removed the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger from the menu. Same-store sales fell 1.3% during the first quarter of 2014, thus showing that the item did in fact cause a fundamental boost.
Yet, prior to the pretzel burger's launch, many consumers might have considered a pretzel bun to be strange. However, it being surprisingly tasty, combined with consumers' natural curiosity, likely drove Wendy's success with this product.
Don't write the Kuro Burger off
As Wendy's success with the pretzel burger shows, it can be hard to predict when a new menu item will succeed. A perfect example comes from McDonald's last year.
McDonald's Chicken Selects were marketed as premium chicken, and good-tasting, while its Fruit & Walnut Salad was aimed to please health-conscious consumers. However, both items were discontinued last year. Furthermore, McDonald's chicken wing project had high expectations, as wings are a popular menu item in many restaurants and had led to great success for the likes of Buffalo Wild Wings . Yet, wings at McDonald's didn't work, and when discontinued the company was left with 10 million pounds of chicken wings .
You never know what will or won't work. With that said, Burger King's latest Kuro Burger was just recently made available in Japan, so no sales figures have been reported. However, this is the third iteration of its Kuro Burger, so if the company keeps bringing it back, something must be going right.
Other restaurants have had success with black burgers in recent years. A popular Australian restaurant called The Morrison launched a burger last year called the Black Widow, which remains on the menu today. The Black Widow also has a bun blackened using charcoal.
While the expectations for this Black Widow were initially low, it has been a surprising success. Chef Sean Connolly was quoted as saying that if the restaurant sells 100 regular burgers in a day, it will also sell 50 Black Widows on that day. Another case of how hard it is to tell what might end up pleasing diners and how you can't always judge your food by its color.
Burger King is most certainly thinking outside the box with the Kuro Burger, which illustrates the intense competition and creativity that fast-casual success and declining traffic has forced among fast-food chains. While Burger King's latest invention was created for Japan, there is always a chance that it'll sell good, become a social phenomenon, and maybe even make it to the U.S.
Because after all, there was likely a point in history when meat between bread seemed strange, or cut and fried potatoes were odd, and many who considered pretzels as a bun to be foolish. The bottom line, you never know what's going to stick around, and while seemingly impossible, Burger King might one day be bringing a Black Burger to a store near you.
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The article You'll Never Guess What Burger King Is Selling originally appeared on Fool.com.
Brian Nichols owns shares of Chipotle Mexican Grill. The Motley Fool recommends Buffalo Wild Wings, Burger King Worldwide, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and McDonald's. The Motley Fool owns shares of Buffalo Wild Wings and Chipotle Mexican Grill. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days . We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .
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