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Burger King Revamp Aims at Higher-Priced Kin

Burger King Revamp Aims at Higher-Priced Kin

(photo by Creative Commons user Editor B)

Ashley M Heher | Associated Press

CHICAGO – Burger King Corp. plans to swap its generic fast-food feel and bland tiles and tabletops for a vibe that’s more sit-down than drive-through.

As part of a plan to be revealed Wednesday in Amsterdam, the company will announce a massive effort to overhaul its 12,000 locations worldwide.

The sleek interior includes rotating red flame chandeliers, brilliant TV-screen menus and industrial-inspired corrugated metal and brick walls.

“I’d call it more contemporary, edgy, futuristic,” Chairman and CEO John Chidsey told The Associated Press. “It feels so much more like an upscale restaurant.”

But that comes with an upscale price: The new look is expected to cost franchisees, who operate 90 percent of Burger King’s locations, between $300,000 to $600,000 per restaurant.

The company said the new design, called “20/20” at the Miami-based chain, is already in place at about 60 locations around the world. But it will take years before all its locations are switched.

Burger King franchise owners are contractually required to update their restaurants after a set period, and executives said the redesign will be the primary option for future upgrades. All new restaurants will be built using the plan.

Burger King said it expects about 75 more redesigned restaurants to be open by the end of next year.

So far, remodeled restaurants have seen sales climb about 12 to 15 percent, while restaurants that are torn down and completely rebuilt at the same location have seen sales climb by as much as 30 percent, Chidsey said.

Observers say the hip, urban and masculine elements in the redesign may be a hit with Burger King’s most loyal customers – young men who frequent the chain known as much for its signature Whoppers and “steak burgers” as its sometimes-creepy “King” commercials. But some experts are skeptical about whether sales will climb as much as the company claims and how eager franchise owners will be to part with that kind of cash, particularly in a sour economy.

A group representing Burger King franchise owners didn’t immediately comment.