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Burger King Sued For ‘Overstating’ Its Whopper

Why do so many Fast Food chains get sued over alleged misleading or deceptive advertising. You’d think, after one big scandal, they’d all have fallen in line and cleaned up their acts to avoid becoming the next class action target. But that’s apparently not the case…

Evidence photos - © 2022 Coleman v. Burger KingNeither pic is to scale: They’re meat to illustrate the discrepency between the
bun size and patty size, between the real deal (left) and the glossy ad.
Note, also, the relative abundance of toppings shown in the ad.

Burger King execs – not to mention the legal department – must be suffering severe déjà vu. The size claims they make in their ads for their flagship Whopper burger have come under fire again by angry consumers.

The initial suit, Coleman v. Burger King, was lodged earlier this month in Miami Federal Court. Now the folks behind it are asking for class action certification. That could mean – if the claim is successful – that BK will eventually have to offer all its customers some sort of compensation.

What they’re saying

The suit alleges that, “Burger King advertises its burgers as large burgers compared to competitors and containing oversized meat patties and ingredients that overflow over the bun to make it appear that the burgers are approximately 35 percent larger in size, and contain more than double the meat than the actual burger.”

In legal terms, BK is accused to have committed breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, unjust enrichment, and violation of Florida’s consumer protection law. They’re also demanding that BK discontinue its allegedly deceptive advertising.

A thin line

The lawyer representing the plaintiffs in Coleman v. Burger King, Mark Russo, says there is always some tendency to overstate the size or features of Fast Food products. There’s a thin line between what’s technically allowed and what constitutes a violation.

“Having looked at some other [cases], I think this seemed a little more obvious to me that it was not done transparently and honestly and truthfully,” Russo said.

A brief history of Fast Food transgressions

Remember when Subway was sued over the allegation that it’s footlong sandwiches were really only 11 inches long? And just recently, claims that Subway’s Tuna was not really tuna at all? The claim that Starbuck’s was serving too much ice in its iced coffee drinks, shorting customers on the java? And a whole lot more

As we hinted at the top of this post, BK has had trouble over its burger-size claims in the past. As far back as 12 years ago, the British national advertising regulatory agency ordered BK there to stop overstating the size of its burgers.

My take

It’s not surprising to me that Fast Food chains still push the reality envelope to make their products look bigger, better and yummier than the competition. The competition is brutal, and profit margins on the leading characters on their menus are perilously thin. We’ve told you a number of times how the lowliest of Fast Food menu item make restos the most profit: a $2 large fountain drink costs no more than $0.50 to serve. A large order of Fries they charge $1.89 for in the U.S. ($3.29 in Canada!) also costs around $0.50 to serve. But it’s their spotlighted, showcased, high-profile items – like Burgers – on which they actively compete. And it’s logical that they would put the most work into making those look their biggest, best and altogether most desirable in the ads.

We all know that there’s a whole profession out there dedicated to making foods look better than they really are in print and TV ads, and in the movies. They are the food stylists who remain more or less anonymous but are the perpetrators of the ‘lie’. The problem comes when they – at the behest of their employers – push the envelope too far. It’s a creeping cheat. They keep pushing the envelope farther and farther, just a little at a time, hoping nobody will notice. But sooner or later someone like Coleman cal them out on their collective sins.

Muse on that…

~ Maggie J.