McDonald’s McRib Has a Challenger: Burger King Roll Outs Its Own Boneless Rib Sandwich

The battle for boneless rib sandwich supremacy is on. This summer, Burger King menus will feature the BK Rib, a pork sandwich slathered in tangy barbecue sauce that may sound very familiar to loyal fans of the McDonald's McRib.

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Burger King has been accused of occasionally copying the competition, what with a less burger-centric menu along the lines of Wendy’s, and a recent emphasis on higher-quality beverages (coffee, smoothie) not unlike McDonald’s.

Very soon, reports the industry publication Burger Business, Burger King menus will feature the BK Rib Sandwich, a boneless rib offering slathered in tangy barbecue sauce that may sound very familiar to loyal fans of the McDonald’s McRib. The company is expected to announce later this week that the new rib sandwich will be available during the summer of 2013, along with several other limited-time-only seasonal menu items.

According to USA Today, the BK Rib Sandwich sold “extremely well” during a test run at Burger King locations in Louisiana. The new sandwich will debut nationally on May 21 and have a price of around $3.49 a la carte, or $5.59 as a meal with fries and a drink.

Considering the fanatical cult following enjoyed by the McRib—not every fast food sandwich has Facebook pages, websites, and a Twitter account dedicated to it—it’s somewhat surprising that there isn’t another high-profile boneless rib sandwich already on the market. The truth is that the McRib wasn’t really a big hit as a regular menu item; instead, the sandwich has achieved much-discussed success over the years partly because it has been so elusive, appearing in select locations at select times of year. For the most part, consumers were lukewarm about the sandwich when it was a menu staple, but their interest has grown hot now that they’re forced to wait for the McRib to appear from time to time — always on a limited-time basis.

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So there’s no guarantee that some other boneless rib sandwich will be a hit with fast food customers. A bit of mystery and intrigue may be required to put sales over the top. (It would probably also help if the thing actually tastes good.)

Like the McRib itself—and like so many of the latest fast food items—the BK Rib Sandwich will reportedly be introduced on a limited-time-only basis. Limited-time offers, or LTOs, seem to have special power over consumers, who want to get a taste before it’s gone.

Last summer, Burger King rolled out special summertime-only menu items that included a bacon sundae, sweet potato fries, and the Memphis Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich. The latter two will be returning for the summer of 2013, according to Burger Business. And they’ll be joined by the “audacious” boneless BK Rib Sandwich, which “can be seen as an answer to rival McDonald’s popular McRib,” according to the publication.

This isn’t Burger King’s first dance with rib meat. In 2010, the chain offered bone-in ribs for a limited time, and the results were surprising on two accounts: Critics generally approved of the taste, and the product sold well even though an order cost in the neighborhood of $9.

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The new boneless rib sandwich will cost substantially less than that, so sales could be off the charts. Regardless of how tasty the BK Rib Sandwich is, it will surely attract plenty of curious customers—in particular fans of the McRib who are tired of waiting around for the sandwich to surface again.