Product Managers Prepare For The Burger Wars

Burger product managers are battling for the same customers
Burger product managers are battling for the same customers
Image Credit: cyclonebill

One of the biggest challenges that product managers face is when there is someone else offering a product that is very similar to ours. When we find ourselves in a situation like this, we need to get creative in how we go about attempting to attract customers to our product. A situation like this is starting to develop in, of all places, the market for burgers. Burger product managers are gearing up for a fierce competition with millions of dollars at stake for the winners. How are they going to be successful?

What A Burger War Looks Like

Every war has to have a start and this one got kicked off by the restaurant chain Popeyes. They introduced a new chicken sandwich. Although just about every restaurant has a version of the chicken sandwich, Popeye’s took off like a rocket and they quickly sold out in just a couple of weeks. The war was on! At fast-food restaurants, sales grew by 10% in the third quarter due to the strength of sandwich sales. This is the best that these restaurants have done in the past two decades and would look good on anyone’s product manager resume. Product managers understand that this a great opportunity to attract new customers. In fact, the product managers at Popeyes believe that potentially two thirds of people in America have never tried their food.

Kicking off a burger war is one thing, keeping the battle going is something completely different. One powerful player in the chicken sandwich market, Chick-fill-A is in the process of expanding rapidly. Over at McDonalds, a number of the larger franchisees are working to get the company to change their product development definition so that they can create and introduce a similar offering. Meanwhile, over at chicken seller KFC they are performing experiments with plant-based meat.

Product managers understand that if they can successfully launch a new burger product, then they may have found a way to get new customers to visit their store. An example of this is the McDonalds Filet-O-Fish that was created in the 1960’s in order to keep Catholic customers coming to the restaurant during the Lent season. Currently, the arrival of plant-based burgers has started to attract a great deal of attention from new customers. However, the people buying these products may simply be curious and may not turn into repeat customers.

Strategies For Winning A Burger War

In order for a burger product manager to be successful, they need to find ways to lure customers from one of their competitors rather than making the pool of customers larger. Currently, the burger chains are seeing growth in their emerging markets; however, they are experiencing a stalemate in their domestic market with the exception of the occasional run-away hit. A study of what people were eating from 2013-2016 showed that more than one third of American adults and 45% of customers aged 20-39 consumed fast food on a given day.

The overall industry growth is slow. The market grew by 1.1% from 2013 to 2018. Total spending grew by roughly 4% and total transactions increased by 2%. In this type of environment, when one burger restaurant sees an increase in sales, it means that someone else has lost a customer. Product managers who operate in this market need to understand that it can be very expensive to attempt to move forward. For every runaway hit, there are expensive flops. In the past few years, product managers have been trying to offer either premium options or cheaper value-meal options.

Unfortunately product managers in the burger industry fully understand that a reversal is always a possibility – even new products may have to be discounted in order to boost sales. Additionally, if they try to sell cheap food then they will have involved themselves in a low-margin business. This requires growing sales to be balanced with restraints on their spending. Today what can make things even more difficult is that the arrival of online-ordering and food delivery services means that the targeted customers don’t even have to leave their homes. The result of this is that impulse buys are limited. Finally, hit products can be a problem. Customer will return to a restaurant if they have a good experience. If a product is going crazy then their may be lines out the door and long waits – factors that don’t encourage a customer to return!

What All Of This Means For You

Every product manager wants their product to be a success. When we enter a competition with other firms, there is the very real possibility that a battle for customer can begin. This is exactly what is going on in the burger market. These product managers are going to have to look at their product manager job description and find a way to make their burger appear to be better than everyone else’s.

This burger war got kicked off when the Popeyes restaurant launched a surprisingly successful chicken sandwich. Their success has made the other players in the chicken sandwich market start to look for ways that they can do a better job of competing with each other. Product managers who can come up with a way to launch a new burger product may have found a way to get new customers to come to their restaurant. The American market for burger customers is static. This means that for a product manager to attract a new customer, they have to lure them away from one of their competitors. Product managers don’t want to attract new customers by selling cheap food because that makes running the business hard. They also have to deal with the arrival of on-line ordering and food delivery services.

What burger product managers need to do is make sure that they fully understand what their customers are looking for. This means that they have to provide them with compelling answers to the questions of “Do I want to eat it” and “Can I afford it?”. If they can do this, then they may have found a way to win this burger war.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that burger product managers should introduce competing products when their competition does?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

In the world of fashion, product managers understand that their customer’s #1 driver is that they want to look good. However, it turns out that there is something else that can determine if a customer will purchase the products that we offer to them: if they fit. This has always been a challenge for product managers and as the world has moved to making purchases online, fashion product managers have seen this problem grow even larger. What’s a fashion product manager to do in order to get their products to fit?