Burger King boss takes a bite out of Britain

BK's boss says Britain's women are 'not very attractive' and our food is 'terrible'. The comments are about as classy as his chain. But let's not lose any sleep over it.

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
Burger King's global chief exec Bernardo Hees dropped his whoppers while riffing on his days spent studying for an MBA at Warwick, before adding that 'here in Chicago, the food is good and you are known for your good-looking women'. It's the classic flip: flame-grill first, then add the sesame-seed sycophancy.

The Brazilian-born Hees has only been running BK since September, but those offended by the comments will feel he's wasted no time finding the level at the chain. This is the same company that advertised in Singapore a couple of years back with the face of an open-mouthed doll-like blond preparing to engorge a phallic torpedo bap. The slogan? 'It'll blow your mind away'. The group was also accused of 'cultural imperialism' by the New York Times when it sent a crew to remote areas of the world to film 'Whopper Virgins' eating burgers for the first time. All fairly vulgar stuff.

Indeed, critics will point out that the boss of Burger King is hardly well-placed to criticise food, given the contents of his typical menu. The Double Whopper with cheese is hardly about to win Hees a Michelin star. Such comments are like Charlie Sheen criticising the Brits for ranting too much.

BK is an organisation that's been passed from pillar to post through a host of corporate owners, from entertainment conglomerate Grand Metropolitan and its successor Diageo, via a group of buyout firms led by TPG Capital, to an IPO in 2006 and finally the recent $4bn sale to 3G Capital, the Brazilian private equity group that brought Hees in. It's a path that suggests the focus may be less on pushing gastronomic boundaries than on earning a quick buck.

Still, Burger King clearly recognises the damage bad publicity can cause. It insists Hees regrets making these unguarded comments, adding: 'it was intended as a humorous anecdote to connect with his audience'. Or 'banter', if you're Andy Gray and Richard Keyes.??

We can't help feeling all this public outrage is a bit over the top. This was clearly intended as a risqué joke to butter up an audience comprised largely of students - and in general terms, we're all for the use of humour to make the business world less po-faced and dull. At least, that's what Hees will tell you, and he's an ugly man from a country where everyone is constantly eating beans.??

However, these rather classless comments do seem to say something apposite about Burger King as an organisation...

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