Plaintiffs Have Beef in New Lawsuit Over Burger King’s Misleading Whopper Size
Burger King will have to face a recently filed lawsuit that accuses the fast food chain of falsely advertising its signature Whopper, ruled a U.S. District Court judge in Miami.
The class action lawsuit was brought forward by Florida attorney Anthony Russo. Russo is representing plaintiffs in Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
“Customers in the proposed class action accused Burger King of portraying burgers with ingredients that ‘overflow over the bun,’ making it appear the burgers are 35% larger and contain more than double the meat than the chain serves.” says a recent Reuters report.
The chain’s flagship burger first exploded in popularity thanks to the company's advertisement which included a catchy jingle, and insatiable imagery of the burger being cooked on an open flame grill and assembled with fresh produce and picture-perfect sesame buns.
Despite this aspirational advertising, customers complain that when they ordered the Whopper they were “disappointed” in the flimsy sandwich they received. The buns appeared larger than the patty, and ingredients like tomatoes and lettuce were significantly smaller and tucked under the bun as opposed to the commercial images that showed produce overflowing the bun. Customers say that what they were served was a far stretch from what was advertised so much so that this false advertising caused them to purchase a product that they would have otherwise not purchased.
Burger King has pushed back against the claims saying that any reasonable consumer would know that images are stylized to make food appear “as appetizing as possible” and that individual restaurants are not required to serve food “exactly like the picture.”
Burger King says that the patties that are sold to customers are the same ones used in advertising, pushing back against claims that the Whoppers contain less beef than advertised. Images of the Whopper are noted with an asterisk that clarifies the Whopper is "¼ lb* of savory flame-grilled beef" before it is cooked. Burger King argues, "Plaintiffs do not and cannot contend that BKC delivered them less than a quarter pound of beef with any Whopper or Big King." Burger King added, "They argue, instead, that they 'expected' more beef, ostensibly because of the protruding patties in the pictures."
U.S. District Judge Roy Altman dismissed claims that Burger King's online and television advertisements of the Whopper misled customers and that the company violated consumer protection laws. However, Judge Altman allowed other parts of the lawsuit including claims of negligence, misrepresentation, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment, to proceed.
The judge added that the court was not in a position to determine whether a product advertised and a product that a customer received is "enough to alter the purchasing preferences of reasonable American consumers," adding that he thinks it is better "to leave that determination to the consumers themselves, who − if the case survives that far − will get to sit in the jury box and tell us what reasonable people think on the subject."
This is not the first lawsuit of its kind and will likely not be the last. In March, popular chain Buffalo Wild Wings was sued over its false advertising of boneless wings which are instead cheaper cuts of chicken breasts. McDonald's and Wendy's have also been the subject of similar lawsuits that claimed their advertising was deceptive because they touted cheeseburgers that were larger than what customers actually received.