Burger King's latest plan: Whoppers delivered while you're sitting in traffic

  • In Burger King's latest pilot program, you don't go to the Whopper, the Whopper comes to you.

    In Burger King's latest pilot program, you don't go to the Whopper, the Whopper comes to you. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

 
 
Posted5/12/2019 6:00 AM

You're stuck in a sea of standstill traffic when it begins: hunger pangs, the kind that unleash a steady stream of fast food fantasizing.

With your grumbling stomach growing louder, your options are limited: You can wait a few hours for the roadways to clear or pull a Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down, leaving your car idling on the freeway while you set off on foot (please don't do this).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Now Burger King, the global hamburger behemoth, is betting that hungry drivers will welcome a third option: a direct to driver delivery concept the company has labeled "The Traffic Jam Whopper."

Using an app developed by the burger chain, the initiative -- which is being rolled out in Mexico City following a one-month pilot program -- allows drivers to order food directly to their car, where it is delivered via motorcycle.

A video released by the company shows a motorcycle delivery driver weaving through slow-moving traffic before knocking on a customer's window and handing over a bag of food.

Reached by email, Gustavo Lauria, co-founder of the advertising agency We Believers, which developed the vehicle delivery concept, said the new approach allows the burger chain to capitalize on a time of day in which the city's nightmarish traffic typically slows business.

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"Mexico City has the worst traffic in the world (according to the latest TomTom Global Traffic index)," Lauria wrote. "People spend up to 5 hours in their daily commute -- meaning they are not in their houses or offices to order delivery."

"This was an opportunity for Burger King to generate a new revenue out of those hungry drivers," Lauria added. "In fact, The Traffic Jam Whopper increased deliveries by 63 percent during the month of April in participating restaurants."

Food delivery apps have exploded in popularity in recent years, experts say, with companies like DoorDash, Postmates, GrubHub and UberEats seizing on consumers' desire for customizable meals and convenience. In a recent report, the research firm Cowen and Co. forecasts that U.S. restaurant delivery sales will continue to skyrocket, reaching $76 billion by 2022.

To meet the growing demand, restaurant owners are scaling back their seating and car companies are rushing to create autonomous vehicles capable of delivering food without human drivers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Despite the influx of innovation, Lauria claims Burger King is the first fast food brand to deliver food to people in the middle of a traffic jam. In Mexico City, the company said, delivery drivers are already is receiving an average of 7,000 orders per day, mostly to homes and offices.

To make the traffic jam delivery process possible, Burger King's Mexico app activates the service after identifying congested areas in Mexico City during periods of high traffic. Customers can only place an order if the app determines that the driver will be locked in traffic for at least 30 minutes and they are within a 1.8-mile radius of a Burger King restaurant, the company said.

Push notifications alert drivers when they've entered a delivery zone and company billboards were used to display information about the status of customer orders. Drivers are prompted to place their order using hands-free voice command.

Early on, Lauria wrote, the initiative was met with skepticism. The challenges were complex: making sure real-time geolocation data was accurate enough to intercept a moving target and creating a hands-free interface to take orders in a country that has adopted stiff penalties for drivers who use cellphones behind the wheel.

"Ultimately, to make sure we could predict traffic density accurately, we analyzed historical Waze data from Mexico -- such as average speed, journey length, possible deviations from main streets and distance from Burger King restaurants -- to identify ideal locations and times of the day where delivery to cars stuck in traffic was doable," Lauria wrote.

Though to company did not offer a timeline, Burger King says it expects to roll out the Traffic Jam Whopper in other cities with high-density traffic, such as Los Angeles, Sao Paulo and Shanghai.

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