The UK’s first Burger King that played classical music and Whoppers cost £1 | UK | News

todayDecember 2, 2023 4

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Britons have enjoyed fast food for decades, but the first Whoppers weren’t served in the UK until the 1970s when Burger King opened its first eatery this side of the pond.

McDonald’s was the first US hamburger giant to arrive in Britain, opening the first UK branch in Woolwich, London, in 1974. But it wasn’t long before its Burger King rival entered the market.

While McDonald’s started in a relatively deprived part of the capital, Burger King, which presented itself as a more upmarket alternative, welcomed its first customers in the UK from Coventry Street in London’s West End. It first entered the British market in 1976, according to British Franchise Association.

According to the book, Who Dares Wins: Britain 1979 to 1982, the first UK branch of Burger King was so upmarket the manager played classical music at lunchtimes to charm the customers.

It’s hard to find out exactly what the prices were back then, but when a Whopper first came out in the United States in 1957 it was considered quite a gourmet product and cost 37 cents. That’s 27p.

The earliest newspaper report of the Coventry Street opening dates to October 21, 1977, in an article published in the Westminster and Pimlico News.

Alongside a photo of actors Roy Kinnear, Aimi MacDonald and Terry Scott, of Terry and June fame, the paper claimed the three were fattening up by chomping on a burger ahead of panto season.

The publication said Scott was “much occupied with what happens in December when he goes into a pantomime at Birmingham”. It joked: “Not as slim as he used to be, he is not looking forward to trying to get into a pair of knickers for his part.”

The article also said Avengers and The Saint actress MacDonald was about to appear in a pantomime in Slough. The paper said the actors “seemed to enjoy the burgers which came in different sizes (whoppers, jumbos and whalers)”.

Three Musketeers actor, Kinnear, accepted a generous donation from Burger King of 2p for every Whopper sold until December 1 for the Mentally Handicapped Children’s Fund. The money was to go towards Christmas presents for the children, MyLondon reports.

Despite the fanfare in 1977, Burger King initially had a challenging start to business in the UK, struggling to compete with McDonald’s and making losses.

It reportedly started to fare better after 1989 when parent company Pillsbury was purchased by the British liquor company Grand Metropolitan, which later merged with Guinnes to form Diageo.

Nowadays, Burger King staff serve more than 11 million customers around the world everyday, according to the fast food giant. It hails itself as the second largest hamburger chain on the planet.

Founded in 1954, the “Home of the Whopper” had 533 restaurants in Britain in June 2022, with 266 directly owned by the company and the rest franchises.

Burger King’s Coventry Street branch no longer exists, but fans of the chain’s grilled burgers, fries and shakes can find a branch just a few yards away in Leicester Square.

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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