Catching up with the dead tree version of yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, I found one of the best interviews I’ve read in the Journal in quite a while. Journal staff reporter Steven Gray interviewed Burger King chief executive officer and turnaround artist Greg Brenneman regarding the progress he has made in improving the company’s performance over the past year. Brenneman is a 43-year-old Harvard MBA with an already impressive track record. What struck me about the interview was Brenneman’s straight talk.
The interview ran under the heading “Flipping Burker King” and is available online only to subscribers. Here are just a few highlights:
WSJ: Do you feel the need to change the menu to appease fast-food critics?
Mr. Brenneman: No pressure at all. You should be able to come to Burger King and get a healthy, low-calorie, low-fat meal. You can. Beyond that, I don’t think it’s my job to tell Americans what they should eat. We might as well go back to communism.
Well, that’s what caught my attention, and it is the highlight of the interview. But I also enjoyed the follow-up:
WSJ: Do you think fast-food makes people fat?
Mr. Brenneman: Life is about everything in moderation. But you can eat at Burger King at every single meal, every single day and actually have a moderated diet, depending on what you eat. Or, you can eat at Burger King or McDonald’s or Wendy’s or Subway and not have a moderated diet. It’s choice.
WSJ: When do you expect to have a trans-fat-free product mix?
Mr. Brenneman: The trans-fat-free issue is an interesting one, and one we’re working on, both in Europe, which is a little ahead of the US, and here. The real question is: How do you do that? Do you come up with a trans-fat-free oil? Or do you have a substitute product that’s trans-fat-free? I think us and most of our competitors have found it’s hard to do something trans-fat-free that tastes good. We’re working on a trans-fat-free oil. I don’t think we’ll get left in the dust on this one.
WSJ: What do you eat?
Mr. Brenneman: I’m a Double Whopper fanatic. What I go in for on a regular basis is the salad. With chicken on it, it’s terrific. You can put reasonable dressing on it and have a terrific meal if you need to watch your girlish figure.
WSJ: Haven’t you lost weight since you’ve been at Burger King ?
Mr. Brenneman: I’ve lost about 25 to 30 pounds. If you eat Burger King three times a day, it’s amazing, it’s great dieting [laughs]….A few months back, after I gained my Burger King 10 [pounds], sampling products…I just started cutting back and eating the salads a lot.
Having conceded he put on his Burger King 10 eating the good stuff, Brenneman pours it on with the claim that he lost 30 pounds eating salads at Burger King. I buy it completely!