Burger King Now Serving Beer and Wine at Test Locations

By Donel DeFreese and Kirk Maltais 07/05/11

Following Starbucks' lead, Burger King and Sonic test the market for fast alcohol.

Have it your way.
Photo via freerepublic

Would you like to super size that beer? Three test Burger Kings are now offering beer and wine served at the “Whopper Bar” to their standard fare. In a bid to boost sales and compete with casual dining places like Applebee’s and TGIF’s, the BK has already opened its kiosk-type Whopper Bars near colleges in New York City, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Miami and Orlando, complete with a selection of brews. Not wanting to miss out on the action, Sonic will open two new drive-ins this summer in Florida, where they will sell beer to go with their $1.99 hot dogs. On the West Coast, coffee peddling giant Starbucks recently began serving beer and wine in a handful of Seattle stores.  But the trend has its critics. "Fast food plus fast alcohol equals fast drunks," warns Michele Simon, research and policy director at the Marin Institute, an alcohol industry watchdog group. Beer or wine sold at fast food outlets might give young people the wrong message, adds Christopher Muller, dean of Boston University's School of Hospitality Administration. "You don't want someone downing a quick beer, then getting into their cars and driving off. It's a delicate balance of risk and reward."

Fast food chains have long been selling beer with food in Europe, but the practice is being tested in the U.S. mainly because of the slumping economy—and only in states where regulations permit it. Ron Paul, president of restaurant consulting firm Technomic, told USA Today that in a tough economy, the move to alcohol can help boost typically slow evening business. It remains to seen if it will catch on, as many critics argue that access to alcohol in fast food restaurants can only lead to trouble. And speaking of trouble, what about those seeking the ultimate in fast food refinement, the drive-thru beer? Sorry, but Burger King and Sonic both say the sale of alcohol will be on-premise only.

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