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Porridge: Have it your way

Burger King joins other fast food chains in bringing oatmeal to its morning menu.

Image: London Brad via Flickr.com

IS OATMEAL THE new burger? Burger King, the world’s second-largest hamburger chain, added oatmeal to its breakfast menu this week.

The company joins a slew of other chains that have brought the hot cereal out of the cupboard and into restaurants and drive-thrus.

Burger King says it is trying to offer customers a healthier breakfast option beyond its sausage croissant sandwiches and French toast dipping sticks. It’s also an attempt by the struggling chain to catch up to competitors and boost sagging sales by appealing to customers beyond its base of burger-and-fries fans.

“We are definitely looking to broaden our target and our audience,” said Leo Leon, vice president of global innovation for Burger King Corp.

Breakfast is becoming the most important meal of the day for restaurants — accounting for nearly 60 percent of traffic growth between 2005 and 2010 in the US. And oatmeal is the latest battleground. It’s low-cost, easily prepared and doesn’t spoil quickly. It also appeals to people who want quick, affordable food they perceive as healthier than the typical fast-food breakfast fare.

Starbucks Corp, the world’s biggest coffee chain, said its oatmeal has become its most popular breakfast item since it launched in 2008. Last year, McDonald’s, the world’s largest burger chain, added oatmeal to its menu.

Restaurants are trying to capitalize on oatmeal’s good-for-you reputation. But some industry experts say it’s not a good fit for fast-food chains.

McDonald’s has faced scrutiny for its oatmeal’s 4.5 grams of fat and 260 to 290 calories. That’s roughly equal to the number of calories in its own hamburger or cheeseburger. By comparison, Burger King’s oatmeal, which was created by Quaker Oats Co., has 110 to 270 calories and 1 to 4 grams of fat.

Still, Steve West, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus, said: “People don’t go to Burger King or McDonald’s for their oatmeal … they go for an Egg McMuffin.”

Perhaps the company could try hiring a wee Scottish lad to promote their new oatmeal addition…

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