Burger King's CMO explains why the chain's uniforms look like its most famous menu item
Tom Dulat / Stringer via Getty Images
- Burger King's colorful striped uniforms are part of a branding overhaul launched in 2014 by CMO Fernando Machado.
- The idea for the Whopper-inspired branding came from a single "E" in the Whopper logo, which was where the stripes first appeared.
- The Whopper uniforms are Burger King's first uniform design to be standardized around the world, and they were created to visually differentiate the chain from its competitors, Machado said.
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Burger King went through a rough patch in the early 2000s.
It struggled with criticism and legal troubles regarding the nutrition content of its food. Younger, flashier burger chains like Five Guys and Smashburger were growing in popularity, and franchisees often revolted against the corporation behind the brand.
The brand's look was outdated, too.
Burger King's CMO, Fernando Machado, described the chain's old uniforms as "very, very generic" in a recent interview with Business Insider. The uniforms weren't standardized across the world, but most US Burger King franchises featured monochromatic polyester polo shirts, which Machado said were "not the most comfortable, to be honest."
Machado came on as Burger King's CMO in 2014, and since then, the chain has relaunched its aesthetic and brand.
"In the past five years, we got the brand together. And now, we have one global uniform," he said.
The chain's latest uniform, which is a charcoal gray T-shirt with stripes meant to mimic a Whopper's ingredients, was part of a larger brand transformation that started when Machado joined the company.
"If you stop someone on the street and ask them about Burger King, what's the first thing that comes to mind? The Whopper. So having the Whopper represented in our visual identity is really important," Machado said.
The stripes on the shirt represent a bottom bun, meat patty, tomato, and lettuce, while the charcoal gray is a nod to the brand's "heritage in flame-grilling," according to Machado.
The idea to center the brand's new look around the Whopper came from a logo redesign for the sandwich. The Whopper stripes first appeared in the "E" in "Whopper," but Machado soon realized that they could be used not just on the Whopper wrapper, but on takeaway bags, restaurant walls, and employee uniforms.
Machado's team surveyed both customers and workers on how the uniforms looked and felt.
"We want our workers to be proud to wear the uniform," said Machado. "I wouldn't design something that we wouldn't wear ourselves."
The new uniforms were made from a cotton-polyester blend that Machado says maximizes comfort, durability, and stain resistance as well as look.
"We felt that the Whopper stripes could be highly differentiating. If I compare our uniform - which we did - with the uniform of other restaurant brands, ours is very, very iconic," he said.
"People identify the Whopper stripes with Burger King, which I think speaks for itself about our design."
Now, the Whopper stripes uniform is ubiquitous at Burger King restaurants around the globe. The full employee uniform line includes hats, hoodies, and aprons as well as the everyday T-shirt that most crew members wear on a daily basis. The goal is to inspire pride in Burger King's workers.
Machado himself wears the uniform often, including to conferences, press events, and the office. And he's not the only one.
"There's always someone wearing the uniform in the office," he said.
"People are proud to wear those colors."