The Former McDonald’s Exec Who Helped Make Burger King A Success

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In 1967, Burger King was sold to the Pillsbury Company (via Britannica) While we’re sure Poppin’ Fresh would have made a great corporate executive, the brand decided to go in a different direction by poaching its competitor’s talent. In 1977, The New York Times reported that Pillsbury had hired Donald N. Smith as their new president and CEO. This was huge news, as Smith had been named McDonald’s senior vice president just three days before accepting the Burger King position. Per Marketing Dive, Smith launched a complete restructuring of the company, a plan dramatically named “Operation Phoenix.”

Encyclopedia notes that, before Smith’s arrival, Burger King had expanded by selling the rights to run franchises. This meant the company didn’t even own most of its locations, so Smith swiftly switched to the McDonald’s model, wherein the corporation leased stores instead of selling them, exercising more control over each outpost. He also established regional offices, which oversaw all the Burger King franchises in a specific territory. This brought more uniformity to the franchise. Smith also altered the menu, adding staples like chicken and fish sandwiches, as well as breakfast options. Per, Smith’s time at the company was short-lived. In 1980, he took a new job at Pizza Hut, but his imprint on Burger King can still be felt from the management level all the way to your mouth.

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