Burger King Reopens in Catania After a Few Years

Burger King

Let’s switch things up and start this digital marketing post in a different style this time. Remember when I shared my experience at a stadium in Poland, turning it into an analysis of how the country leverages its stadiums to boost revenue and revitalise its football scene? Or, sticking with the football theme, when I introduced virtual advertising, a concept I first encountered during my time in England, explaining how it helps clubs increase ad revenue through personalised targeting?

Now, I want to chat about something closer to home: Burger King‘s return to my hometown, Catania. As an SEO Consultant here, it’s got me thinking about the challenges businesses face not only offline but also online when opening new locations.

In today’s marketing landscape, having a solid digital presence is key. Think managing online reputation, keeping social media profiles engaging, and ensuring websites deliver a seamless user experience. And let’s not forget about standing out in a crowded digital space, where creativity and targeted strategies are essential to attract customers.

But let’s get back to Burger King. For someone like me in the marketing world, seeing the iconic fast-food chain return sparks thoughts not just of its famous Whopper but also of its ongoing rivalry with McDonald’s. This battle isn’t just about burgers; it’s fought fiercely through advertising and marketing tactics, each side trying to outsmart the other.

The return of Burger King to Catania feels different this time. It’s not just another opening—it’s a chance for the brand to embed itself in the city’s fabric, rather than just passing through. It’s got me pondering the shifts in consumer tastes and how Burger King might seise this opportunity to truly make its mark.

The Story of Burger King in Catania

Burger King officially arrived in Italy in 1999, with the opening of its first restaurant in Milan (although, according to some sources, it had been available for years within the NATO bases of Sigonella (in the province of Catania) and Gricignano (in the province of Caserta), which were only accessible to military personnel and civilians with passes to enter the bases). Perhaps few remember, but in 2001, it made a brief appearance in Catania at the United Colors of Benetton on Via Etnea, corner of Piazza Università. Spizzico and Burger King—both managed in Italy by Autogrill S.p.A. at the time—shared a food space on the ground floor. While Spizzico managed to hold on for a few years with its Italian-style pizza slices, Coca-Cola, and fries, Burger King closed soon after amidst the indifference of Catania’s residents, poor advertising, and competition with the nearby McDonald’s in Piazza Stesicoro.

A few years later, in 2009, Burger King returned to Catania, this time at the Katanè shopping centre, followed by the opening of three other restaurants. A scenario that lasted another five years before all Catania branches closed. And now, the reopening in the historic premises of the former Bowling Center, with hundreds of youngsters flooding the venue with curiosity in the first week of opening to taste the burgers from McDonald’s main rival (which, from Catania and its province, hasn’t left since opening its first locations back in 1999). With the proliferation of social media and comparison videos between Burger King and McDonald’s made by influencers, even the younger generation, who may have never tried this fast food’s products, have decided to give it a shot.


Burger King vs McDonald's: A Marketing Battle Royale

The rivalry between Burger King and McDonald’s has become a classic in the field of marketing over the years, representing an iconic challenge between two giants in the fast food industry. For decades, especially abroad, these two fast-food titans have battled it out with advertising campaigns, often irreverent and provocative, aiming to win over the hearts (and stomachs) of consumers.

In recent years, this battle has intensified even further, with increasingly creative and bold marketing stunts. Here are just a few examples:

  • 2016 – McDonald’s France launches a provocative advertising campaign by placing a billboard along a provincial road indicating the nearest Burger King is 258 kilometers away, while the closest McDrive is just 5 kilometers away. This move highlights how McDonald’s is seemingly everywhere, unlike its competitor.
  • 2017 In the United States, Burger King adopts a marketing strategy that highlights the brand’s ability to turn a negative into a competitive advantage. In a campaign by David The Agency, the company makes a bold move by using images of actual fires that occurred in its restaurants. The reason? To visually emphasize that, unlike its main competitor, their burgers are always flame-grilled.
  • 2017 – During Halloween week, Burger King launches a special initiative where it decides to give away a Whopper to anyone who shows up wearing a clown costume, with the motto: “Come as a Clown, eat like a king” (with a more or less veiled reference to Ronald McDonald, the mascot of their arch-rivals). The initiative is rolled out in 1,500 restaurants across 35 cities worldwide. The results are astonishing: over 110,000 people dressed as clowns participate in the event, enjoying their dinner at Burger King with a complimentary Whopper, while everything typically consumed during a fast-food meal (fries, drinks, etc.) is not included in the initiative. This prompts customers to a big upsell, resulting in a global sales increase of +15% on that single evening.
  • 2019 – Burger King launches the “Real Meals” campaign, introducing five mood-themed boxes other than the “Happy” one, clearly referencing McDonald’s Happy Meal. These moods include the “Pissed” menu, the “Blue” menu, the “Salty” one, the “YAAAS” one, and the “DGAF” (literally “Don’t Give A F***”). The goal? To raise awareness about mental health, making meals more realistic and acknowledging that life isn’t always happy, in stark contrast to the philosophy of the iconic McDonald’s Happy Meal.
  • 2019 – Upon the opening of a Burger King in the heart of Brussels, a neighboring McDonald’s responds by placing a sign highlighting their table service, which is not proivded by their rival. The announcement provocatively reads: “Served by a king, or served as a king?”
  • 2022 – Burger King launches its app, offering a Whopper for one cent to those who download it. But here’s the twist: that offer is only valid when a customer is in ‘enemy territory’. This means you can only order the one-cent Whopper if you’re inside a McDonald’s.

Burger King vs McDonald's: The (Missed) Collaboration

Rivalry, but not just that. Like in 2015, on Peace Day, Burger King proposed a truly unique collaboration to McDonald’s: creating a “hybrid” sandwich, the McWhopper, combining the two iconic burgers, Burger King’s Whopper and McDonald’s Big Mac.

The idea was to symbolically unite the two fast-food giants in a message of peace and blend their flavors for a special day. The proposal, accompanied by an open letter posted on social media, invited McDonald’s to set aside rivalry and join forces for an important cause.

The sandwich would have had six ingredients from the Big Mac (including the special sauce and cheese), and six from the Whopper (like onions and pickles). Burger King even designed a prototype of employee uniforms for the occasion and packaging to sell the burger during this day.

McDonald’s response was not immediate. Initially, the company seemed to dismiss the proposal as a publicity stunt. However, McDonald’s later opened a dialogue with Burger King, although they didn’t accept the specific idea of the McWhopper.

The two chains engaged in discussions to find a collaborative way to celebrate Peace Day. They explored possible joint initiatives, such as donating part of the proceeds to charity or raising awareness campaigns on social issues.

Ultimately, though, no concrete collaboration was reached. The two companies failed to agree on the terms of collaboration, and the project, albeit potentially noble, fell through.

Burger King vs McDonald's: Beyond Fast Food

The rivalry between Burger King and McDonald’s extends beyond the world of fast food. The two chains also compete in other areas, including NASCAR, the renowned American racing series.

For instance, in 2017, Burger King sponsored the Chevrolet Camaro driven by Kyle Busch, one of the most famous NASCAR drivers. The car was fully branded with Burger King’s colors and logo, serving as a rolling advertisement that caught the attention of millions of fans during the races.

Not to be outdone, McDonald’s, always attuned to events with such resonance, responded to the challenge by sponsoring the Toyota Camry driven by Martin Truex Jr., another highly renowned driver. Once again, the car was fully branded with McDonald’s colors and logo, creating a visually striking and media impactful image.

The two branded cars of Burger King and McDonald’s became symbols of the rivalry between the two chains for fans of this racing sport, with a competition that resurfaces not only in terms of product and marketing but also on the track.

Digital Strategies: The Key for any Brick-and-Mortar Business

In today’s digital landscape, the importance of robust digital strategies cannot be overstated for brick-and-mortar businesses.

Embracing online marketing is no longer an option but a necessity for staying relevant and competitive. From establishing a strong online presence to engaging with customers through social media platforms, digital strategies play a pivotal role in driving foot traffic and enhancing brand visibility. Moreover, effective online marketing efforts can bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds, offering customers seamless experiences and fostering long-term loyalty.

Regarding the reopening of Burger King in Catania, this time it seems that the burger giant has a real opportunity to establish itself in the Catania landscape, rather than being considered just a temporary phenomenon.

As mentioned earlier, we live in an era where young people are immersed in social media, drawn to the #foodporn culture, and fascinated by food bloggers who lead them to discover new chains and restaurants around the world. Consequently, the world is much more globalised and attentive to trends developing elsewhere compared to twenty or even ten years ago.

A prime example is Starbucks, which for years faced resistance in entering into the Italian market, with many people thinking that Italians would never lingering inside a café, while drinking an overpriced espresso. However, Starbucks proved these to be mere myths, capitalizing on the generated hype and achieving significant success since its arrival in 2018. In fact, the Seattle-based coffee giant has since opened over 25 outlets in Italy, recording a significant increase in turnover despite the pandemic, rising from 12.7 million euros in 2019 to approximately 15.4 million in 2020. In the following two years, revenues continued to grow, surpassing 18.2 million.

Now, as mentioned earlier, the challenge for Burger King is to adopt a smart and sustainable local marketing strategy. While exciting initiatives can attract initial attention, without careful management, they risk losing appeal quickly. In the fast-food world, trends can be fleeting, with initial enthusiasm fading rapidly.

Therefore, to establish itself in Catania, Burger King must not only capture attention, currently mainly focused on interactive LED billboards in some areas of the city but also maintain a sustainable approach over time by combining brand awareness tactics with more aggressive actions.

Reflecting on my visit to Burger King in Catania at the end of February and considering the initial online reviews, we can say that Burger King’s third chapter in Catania has been greeted with great enthusiasm, evidenced by long queues and much anticipation.

However, a mixed picture emerges regarding the overall customer experience. The 3.2 stars out of 5 obtained in the 181 reviews on Google Business Profile at the time of writing this piece indicate some critical issues, such as problems with payments through the app and reports on staff preparation in handling complex situations.

Furthermore, the management of negative reviews on Google Business Profile, often overlooked by many companies, emerges as a critical point. It would be desirable for the people managing the franchise to respond clearly and professionally to these criticisms, explaining the actions taken to improve.

This is essential to preserve the brand’s reputation, and here’s where the importance of collaborating with an SEO Consultant or a digital professional comes into play. A professional capable of bridging the gap between the online image and the real customer experience, addressing issues that might otherwise go unnoticed.