Burger King's Rib Sandwich is a shot across McDonald's bow. If BK can cut even a few percentage points into McDonald's cult classic, the McRib, Burger King will have a monster cash-register winner.
It's called confusion in the marketplace. You want a fast-food rib sandwich ... hmmm, which place has that again? It's called a Mc ... a Mc ... wait, I just heard about a Rib Sandwich at Burger King. There's one at the next traffic light. Let's stop there.
Here's the Burger King Rib Sandwich blueprint: a pork patty, sweet-and-tangy barbecue sauce and sliced pickles on an artisan-style bun.
BK's Rib Sandwich is almost identical to the McRib, except I think it's better by subtraction. The Rib Sandwich doesn't come with chopped onions standard. Raw onions ... how'd they ever get this far? A fast-food franchisee once told me the No. 1 cleanup every night in the drive-thru is raw onions that people toss before they pull out.
BK's Rib Sandwich also is a smidge better than the McRib because it comes on a billowy, artisan-style roll. The McRib has a run-of-the-millstone bun. Both have tangy BBQ sauce, but BK shows some restraint by not dumping a 55-gallon drum of sauce on each sandwich. BK slathers just the right dosage on both sides of the bun - a nice touch. BK's crinkle-cut pickles are sweeter than the other guy's.
Of course, the headliner is the pork patty, and they're really quite the same. Both start with pork that is chopped and then reformed to look like the original.
The edge goes to Burger King's patty, though. Burger King flame-broils its pork patty, so there's a little char on the meat. It adds to the appearance and flavor. It shows caring.
Burger King's Rib Sandwich has long odds against it - McDonald's McRib is a treasured classic, and it's been around for decades. McDonald's does a good job of keeping it precious by offering it only once a year.
The King wisely is avoiding a head-to-head clash with McDonald's. The Rib Sandwich is being introduced in the summer, while McDonald's usually unleashes the McRib each fall.