Wisconsin Cheese Adds Value

When you turn cheeseburgers into Wisconsin Cheeseburgers, you’re not just adding extra flavor, you’re adding the prestige of award-winning quality. Quality your customers will pay a premium for.
Click HERE to visit the Wisconsin Cheese Burger page and get the recipe for the Juicy Lucy Sliders with Wisconsin Provolone and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto shown below!

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Better Bacon Means Better Burgers

Go to the JONES FARM RECIPE PAGE to get the Bacon Stuffed Cheeseburger recipe for April.

Visit the Killer Burger Recipe Vault

Want the recipe for the Double Cheese Poutine Burger shown above? Looking for burger recipes from Bobby Flay, Jamie Oliver, Umami Burger or Michael Symon’s B Spot? Visit BurgerBusiness.com’s Killer Burger Recipes vault. _________________

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Wendy’s Hires Pizza Hut’s Kane as CCO

Kurt Kane, credited with the reinvention of the Doritos brand during his tenure at Frito-Lay, has been asked to help reinvigorate Wendy’s. The burger chain announced that Kane is taking the new title of Chief Concept Officer, responsible for North American marketing and innovation, effective May 4. He reports to President-CEO Emil Brolick.

Wendy's Kurt Kane

Wendy’s CCO Kurt Kane

Kane comes to Wendy’s from Yum! Brands–where Brolick had held several posts, including  president of U.S. brand building–before rejoining Wendy’s as CEO in 2011. At Yum! Kane was Global Chief Marketing and Food Innovation Officer for Pizza Hut, overseeing strategic direction, advertising, marketing, media planning and product innovation. Prior to Yum! He had held marketing posts at Frito-Lay and also worked at Molson Coors Brewing Co. and Procter & Gamble, handling Sunny Delight. A West Point graduate, Kane received an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.

Craig Bahner stepped down as Wendy’s CMO in December and was succeeded by SVP-Marketing Brandon Solano. Before Wendy’s, Solano, too, had pizza experience, having served as VP-Development at Domino’s. He continues in that role.

“We are thrilled to welcome Kurt to Wendy’s,” Brolick said in a statement. “His expertise in brand building, product innovation and people development will help accelerate Wendy’s brand transformation as we seek to build a deeper connection with our customers. The role of Chief Concept Officer will allow us to elevate our marketing and innovation capabilities to secure our ‘A Cut Above’ brand position and drive long-term sustainable growth for the Wendy’s brand.”

Wendy’s is on an ambitious course, having announced goals for 2020 that include remodeling at least 60% of its restaurants, adding 1,000 new restaurants and hitting $2 million as an average unit volume. Last year its system averaged $1.47 million in per-store sales. Total 2014 sales were an estimated $9.1 billion.

Burger King’s Sales Surge

Restaurant Brands International reported strong Q1 sales for both its Burger King and Tim Hortons brands. In doing so it countered two common media assumptions: that Millennials have walked away from QSR burgers and that Taco Bell has significantly cut into competitors’ breakfast business.

Burger King Croissan'wich promtionBurger King comparable sales were up 4.6% globally and +6.9% in the U.S. RBI CEO Daniel Schwartz said it was Burger King’s best quarterly performance in seven years. Tim Hortons’ +5.3% comp-sales performance (+8.9% in the U.S.) was its best in three years.

Schwartz said the Burger King gain was built on strong sales across all dayparts, with particularly strong results during breakfast (about 14% of the brand’s business). A “2 for $4” Croissan’wich promotion was effective without requiring new products, he noted. The return of Chicken Fries and the BLT Whopper did well, too. A new Dark Roast Coffee helped Tim Hortons’ breakfast sales.

But the jump in same-store sales signals that Burger King is drawing incremental business, Schwartz said, including more visits from millennials. “I think were getting those customers excited about coming back to Burger King again,” he said. Chicken Fries’ return was built on social-media marketing targeting young adults.

Delivery is certainly interesting as a future option but isn’t a meaningful part of Burger King’s business now, Schwartz said.

Wild Willy’s Burgers: The Real Right Thing

After 17 year as a McDonald’s operator, Jim Williams walked away in 2001 to do something different: open a burger joint. So began the small, proudly old-fashioned Wild Willy’s Burgers chain.

Williams left McDonald’s when platform changes meant burgers were cooked ahead of time, binned and reheated. “One day at my restaurant, I made a Double Cheeseburger. I took the meat out of a plastic tray and put the cold cheese on it and put it on the ‘landing zone’ [the heated tray where burgers sit while the rest of a meal is assembled]. That’s when I thought, ‘I’m getting out of this business,’” he says.Wild Willy's sign

It wasn’t just the food that had lost its luster for him; the whole QSR service model had worn thin for him. “So a customer comes [to the drive thru], I grab his money and shove the drink at him. Somebody else throws out the bag. That just was never my idea of customer service. It always bothered me.”

He was out of the restaurant only a few weeks before he decided he really wanted back in, but to do it differently. “I came up with the idea of really running a business the old-fashioned way. Simple, with upscale food. I said, ‘I’m going to open a true burger joint. I’m not going to discount, not have a drive thru. I’m going to get to know my customers.’ It’s what I call an honest relationship. I wanted to harken back to a simpler era and maybe that resonates more with older people, but that’s OK with me. There’s a lot of them.”

Williams opened and still runs (with his wife, Meredith, and oldest son, Jim P.) the original Wild Willy’s in York, Maine. Licensees operate stores in Rochester, N.H., and Watertown, Worcester and Quincy, Mass. Each location gets a sign that says, “Welcome to Wild Willy’s. We are not fast food.” Click here to continue reading Wild Willy’s Burgers: The Real Right Thing

Smashburger Eyes UK, Readies U.S. Ads

Smashburger is preparing to join fast-casual burger compatriots Shake Shack and Five Guys in the UK while also readying its most serious advertising effort at home.

Smashburger adSmashburger has hired Tim Lowther—who has worked in the UK for both Shake Shack (as business manager) and Five Guys (head of UK North operations), according to The Caterer—as its managing director there. At the same time, it is scouting for its first locations. Ideally that will include a London presence, according to founder Tom Ryan, but a spot in the pricey capital needn’t be one of the first. Ryan said Smashburger will open “a couple of stores before the end of the year,” reportedly with an ultimate target of 35 locations.

Reflecting its localized U.S. menus, Ryan said it would “more than likely have a London burger, or a burger for Scotland. I am sure we will have one for Wales and we may even have one for places like Birmingham.”

Despite having a national network of 400+ locations, Smashburger never has been a substantial advertiser. Today before noon, McDonald’s will spend more than the $3.8 million Smashburger spent on advertising in 2014. Two years ago, it hired Denver’s Definite Productions to create a 30-second TV spot—with the tagline “What’s a Smashburger?”—that aired briefly in a handful of markets.

Smashburger recently hired a new agency of record—Mono in Minneapolis—that Ad Age says will soon launch new print, radio, out-of-home and “experiential” advertising. TV is not likely to be part of the mix.

What’s the angle going to be? In explaining the selection, Smashburger CMO Josh Kern said in a statement, “The team at Mono clearly demonstrated a passion for the Smashburger brand as well as the ability to help us tell the story of the brand as the new way to eat a burger.” Those last seven words would make a great tagline, eh?

McDonald’s Plots ‘Mayday’ Turnaround

Steve Easterbrook had little good news to offer in his first quarterly earning call as McDonald’s Corp. president and CEO, but he promised to emphasize the positive in a special webcast on May 4, when he will detail the initial steps of the company’s global turnaround plan.

McD_US_SameStore_2014.600For today the discussion was about another down quarter. Global comparable sales were down 2.3%, with U.S. comp sales down 2.6% for the quarter and down 3.9% in March. April comps will be negative as well. But the worst performance came from Japan where supplier issues have destroyed McDonald’s brand trust. Comp sales there were down nearly 33%. China is down but recovering. Russia, of course, remains an economic sinkhole.

The company said it is closing 350 under-performing restaurants, primarily in the U.S., Japan and China. These are in addition to 350 closings already planned for 2015. Those 700 closures mean a loss of roughly 2% of its 36,290 stores open at the beginning of the year.
Click here to continue reading McDonald’s Plots ‘Mayday’ Turnaround

Red Robin Does Goat Cheese on Chicken Burger

[Correction: A Reader correctly points out that Red Robin did have goat cheese crumbles on its LTO Big Sky burger, featured last year.]
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers’ new sandwich is a first second. I think the Spring Chicken Burger available this week is the first second burger from a major U.S. burger chain to use goat cheese as a topping. The build also includes grilled chicken, bacon strips, sweet pepper salsa, crunchy onion straws and lettuce with roasted garlic aïoli, together on a whole-grain bun. It’s on the menu through June 14.

Red Robin Spring Chicken

Red Robin Spring Chicken

Burgerville, a regional chain based in Vancouver, Wash. tried a Balsamic Strawberry & Goat Cheese Panino in 2009, but that wasn’t a burger. McDonald’s did a goat-cheese-topped burger in 2011, but that was in France. Could goat cheese be the new trendy topping?

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The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro hates a burger vacuum, so no sooner has it completed its Baconism II promotion than the Canadian chain kicks off a “Patty Like a Rockstar” promotion to spotlight burger-build options.

The 24-store chain already has 50 different burgers on the menu, but each promotion adds a few new ones. The Rockstars’ include a holdover from Baconsim II, the Getting’ Piggier With It, which starts with The Works’ signature 8-oz. bacon-and-beef patty and adds Canadian bacon, cheddar cheese, smoked bacon, bacon ketchup and crunchy onion strings. There’s a Juicy Lucy with a cheese-stuffed beef patty topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, red onion and mayo. The Man Cave is a Canadian-beef patty topped with caramelized onions, bold BBQ sauce, Jack cheese and bacon.

Works Juicy Lucy

The Works’ Juicy Lucy

There’s also a turkey burger, The Hipster, with caramelized onions, avocado and Havarti cheese sitting on a turkey patty. And, being Canadian, there’s an elk burger: the Elk on a Beech has avocado, house Beechhouse sauce, sun-dried tomato and feta cheese on a Canadian Elk patty. Want chicken? The Sexy Burger has sweet and spicy sauce, pineapple, cream cheese and banana peppers on a whole-chicken-breast patty. And for those steering clear of meat, the Babewatch has avocado slices and Monterey-Jack cheese on a veggie patty, while the Grills Gone Wild has grilled eggplant, avocado, salsa and feta cheese on a portobello mushroom cap. With purchase of any of the Rockstar specials (including the Rockin’ Red Velvet Cheesecake Shake) can enter a contest to win a Moosehead-stocked Marshall amp mini-fridge. The winner is named July 20.

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And it’s noteworthy that just as the Arches is testing all-day breakfast, the morning meal gets attention elsewhere. For those who wish the all-day test included biscuit sandwiches, Carl’s Jr. & Hardee’s have introduced the $2.99 Mile High Bacon, Egg & Cheese Biscuit. Bagel chain Bruegger’s has a new spring menu, too. It includes a new Chorizo Jack breakfast sandwich (a freshly cooked egg with pepper-Jack cheese, chorizo sausage and jalapeňo on a guajillo bagel).

Why Chanticleer is Buying Up Burger Brands

Carolina Roadside Burger at American Roadside BurgersChanticleer Holdings Inc. is buying burger concepts, although its entry into restaurants came in 2006 when it bought a minority interest in wing-concept Hooters of America Inc. (HOA), that brand’s parent company. In 2011 the Charlotte, N.C.-based firm exercised its right of first refusal to acquire HOA and it operates or franchises more than 400 Hooters in 28 countries. It shifted to burgers in 2013 with the purchase of then-five-unit American Roadside Burgers. It followed with acquisitions of The Burger Company., a Charlotte burger restaurant; the 20-location BGR: The Burger Joint chain, based in Lansdowne, Va.; and, in March, Charlotte-based BT’s Burger Joint, which has four locations. Its 2014 acquisition of fine-dining seafood restaurant Spoon Bar & Kitchen in Dallas proved to be one of its few missteps. But Chanticleer’s burger buying isn’t finished as was clear from BurgerBusiness.com’s interview with Chairman-CEO Mike Pruitt and Rich Adams, president and COO of Chanticleer’s American Burger Co. subsidiary.

Tell me why you love burger concepts so much.
Mike Pruitt:
Well, I’m an American! But Chanticleer started as an investment fund and to some degree I still consider myself an investor first. Our foray into restaurants was driven by an investment we made in Hooters back in 2006. [Acquiring Hooters parent in 2011] put us in in a big way. Once we got in, we started looking at what might be the best opportunity to take advantage of the platform that Hooters allowed us to develop, both in terms of a network of people, and also our having restaurants in five parts of the world with a very experienced team.

The idea of taking America abroad really became our focus internally. But out of the blue we had the opportunity to buy American Roadside Burger. We wouldn’t have bought it if we didn’t have the right guy to operate it, because we’re not operators. But Rich Adams, having been part of a very successful turnaround [as an executive] at Bojangles came to me and said, “If you’re interested in buying this business, I’d be interested in coming and running it for you.”

American Roadside was a fairly low-visibility brand at that point, from my vantage point at least. What did you see in the concept?
MP:
It has a really good following at its Smithtown, N.Y., location, which was the original. We’re based in Charlotte and it has a couple of locations here. They were just opening in Greenville, S.C., and Columbia, S.C., hadn’t opened long before. The product was really good. What struck us in doing the deal was that when we brought in Rich, the investors in the deal brought an additional $2.5 million up to the table to kind of get us started in the category. That was a good vote of confidence. Click here to continue reading Why Chanticleer is Buying Up Burger Brands

All-Day But Not Full-Menu Breakfast

McDonald’s will begin testing all-day breakfast in San Diego beginning next Monday, April 20, but it won’t be offering its full breakfast menu.

Just nine food items (plus McCafé beverages) will be on the post-10:30 a.m. menu, according to the San Diego McDonald’s co-op. The iconic Egg McMuffin is there, of course, along with Sausage McMuffin with Egg, Sausage Burrito, Sausage McMuffin, Hash Browns, Hotcakes, Hotcakes and Sausage, Fruit & Maple Oatmeal and Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait.

McDonald's all-day breakfast menuParticipating stores won’t be making biscuits all day and won’t be preparing McGriddles past the usual 10:30 a.m. breakfast close. They won’t be baking mini Cinnamon Coffee Cake or Double Chocolate bundt cakes all day, either. And if you’re a fan of the Steak, Egg & Cheese Bagel you’ll need to find a different choice for lunch or dinner.

The nine test items are essentially the same breakfast foods included in the “McDonald’s After Midnight”  menu, a mix of breakfast and lunch/dinner items (Big Mac, Quarter Pounder, Double Quarter Pounder, Chicken McNuggets and a few others) offered between midnight and 4 a.m. (after which the kitchen shifts to all-breakfast).

The point is that McDonald’s already knows it can cook the San Diego all-day items alongside burgers, at least for a while. The all-day marriage is what’s in test.

The problem of making sausage and eggs at the same time in the same space as burgers and chicken has kept McDonald’s from extending breakfast hours before. It was two years ago that Atlanta operator J.M. Owens told BurgerBusiness.com, “We only have so much toaster space and so much grill space. Unlike a lot of breakfast QSRs, we still cook our product on a grill. Many of the pretenders are doing a ton of prep in microwaves. For instance, go into a Dunkin’ Donuts or a Starbucks, who are chasing breakfast, and you don’t find a grill or oven or fryer. We prefer to be a restaurant rather than processing everything through a microwave.”

McDonald’s first attempt at expanding breakfast in 2012, called “Breakfast After Midnight,” tested a limited breakfast menu (similar to the San Diego test) from midnight to 5 a.m. Later that became the “McDonald’s After Midnight” menu.

Members of the San Diego market’s My McCafé Club loyalty group are being invited to a special preview of the all-day breakfast menu tomorrow (April 18). One attendee will win breakfast sandwiches for a year.