UPDATE 2-Burger King profit boosted by cost cuts, new food

Fri Feb 15, 2013 1:24pm EST
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* Operating costs and expenses plummet

* Company plans to keep rolling out new menu items

* Sees 2013 inflation of around 3 percent

* Shares up almost 3 percent

By Lisa Baertlein

Feb 15 (Reuters) - Burger King Worldwide Inc, the third-largest U.S. hamburger chain, on Friday posted higher-than-expected quarterly profit, helped by cost cuts and new holiday sweets, premium sandwiches and special deals that boosted restaurant sales in the United States and Canada.

Total fourth-quarter operating costs and expenses plunged more than 40 percent to $292.6 million as the fast-food company spent less on everything from food and packaging to payroll and rents.

At the same time, Burger King tempted diners with gingerbread milkshakes, chicken parmesan sandwiches and a 55th anniversary Whopper hamburger deal.

The results landed as Burger King and fast-food rivals including McDonald's Corp and Wendy's Co fight hard for customers, who reeled in spending after the U.S. payroll tax increase in January cut take-home pay.   Continued...