As the scariest day of the year approaches (no, not that one), Burger King is celebrating Halloween by taking a potshot at its struggling fast-food rivals.
The burger chain will offer a free Whopper to customers who drive by one of the “the scariest places on earth” — five shuttered restaurants once operated by rivals McDonald’s (MCD), Wendy’s, Sonic or Jack in the Box.
As part of the Halloween-themed promotion announced Monday and running through Halloween, customers within 300 feet of one of the listed abandoned locations can confirm their location on the Burger King app to receive a coupon for a free Whopper.
“To us, nothing is scarier than a place that never flame-grilled,” said Ellie Doty, the chief marketing officer for Burger King North America. “While Halloween looks a bit different this year, we’re embracing it in a way that keeps guests’ safety top of mind in current times.”
The locations are in Johnston, Rhode Island.; Birmingham, Alabama, McHenry, Illinois; Houston, Texas; and Dayton, Ohio. (Burger King’s fine print notes people should not trespass on these private properties in their quests to score a free sandwich.)
Burger King played up the spookiness with Photoshopped images of the five locations under dark clouds. “On some nights you can even hear the sizzling screams of a flat-top fryer,” Burger King wrote on the illustration of the abandoned McDonald’s in Illinois.
The listed locations appear to have closed years ago, but the advertising campaign could be seen as being in poor taste, given that fast-food companies have permanently closed hundreds of their locations as a result of the pandemic.
For example, Wendy’s largest franchisee filed for bankruptcy in early July, and later that month, McDonald’s announced that it would shut down more than 200 of its restaurants.
But Burger King owner Restaurant Brands International (QSR) hasn’t closed locations at the level its rivals have. On a quarterly earnings call in August, CEO José Cil said the company plans to end 2020 with “a similar number of restaurants” compared to the close of last year.