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 Wisconsin Blue Cheese Burger with Bacon Walnut Chutney shown below!

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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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Burger King Chicken Fries Return Permanently

BK_ChickenFriesBack2015Burger King announces today that it is making its Chicken Fries item a permanent menu item. But it’s not a response to beef prices, the chain says.

In an interview, Chief Marketing Officer Eric Hirschhorn told BurgerBusiness.com that the decision to bring Chicken Fries back for good was all about consumer demand and nothing about any supposed menu shift to chicken as has been reported. “This decision had absolutely nothing to do with that,” Hirschhorn said of commodity price changes. “Consumers have reached out to us across social media asking for Chicken Fries’ return.”

McDonald’s recently brought back its Chicken Tenders item, but that hardly constitutes a menu shift, as has been claimed in some reports. There also have been introductions of new burgers as chains continue to balance beef and chicken items. Jack in the Box’s Buttery Jack burgers and Spicy Sriracha burger have been among the recent burger additions.

Originally introduced in 2005 but cut from the Burger King menu in 2012, Chicken Fries resurfaced as an LTO last August after what the chain said was a strong and persistent consumer clamor for their return.

Chicken Fries rejoin the menu in the U.S. and are being added in more than 30 international markets, making them a signature item akin to the Whopper. Pricing remains $2.89 for a 9-piece serving. Dipping sauce options include BBQ, Honey Mustard, Ranch, Zesty, Buffalo and Sweet & Sour.

TV advertising for Chicken Fries’ return begins during regional finals games of the NCAA tournament, for which Burger King is a national sponsor. Asked if the timing of Chicken Fries elevation to menu permanency was made to leverage the huge NCAA audience, Hirshhorn said it “certainly was part of the decision-making process” but that Chicken Fries have become a pop culture item whose popularity couldn’t be ignored.

Digital marketing support includes a new Chicken Fries emoji keyboard, available from today in the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.

The Week’s Most Intriguing Burgers

With all the specious reporting lately that burgers are being downplayed because of high beef prices, it seemed a good time to scan the menus of burger bars for a look at a few of the most appetizing and/or audacious burgers surfacing in the past week. This edition is a global survey with burgers from England, Scotland and Canada included with some familiar burger creators in the U.S., including Zombie Burger + Drink Lab and PYT (DO scroll down to see its Pizza & Wings Burger).

ZOMBIE BURGER + DRINK LAB, Des Moines:  The March Fatness (beef, Tater tots, American cheese, waffle sausage dogs, Shiner Bock-bacon country gravy and mayo)

ZOMBIE BURGER + DRINK LAB, Des Moines:
The March Fatness (beef, Tater tots, American cheese, waffle sausage dogs, Shiner Bock-bacon country gravy and mayo)

BURGER MEETS BUN, GLASGOW, SCOTLAND:  The Hot Hen and Hog (breaded chicken thigh topped with chipotle pulled pork and slaw)

BURGER MEETS BUN, GLASGOW, SCOTLAND:
The Hot Hen and Hog (breaded chicken thigh topped with chipotle pulled pork and slaw)

DMK BURGER & FISH, EVANSTON, ILL.:  The Chilaquiles Burger (grass-fed beef, scrambled eggs, jalapeño, tortilla chips, salsa verde, Jack cheese)

DMK BURGER & FISH, EVANSTON, ILL.:
The Chilaquiles Burger (grass-fed beef, scrambled eggs, jalapeño, tortilla chips, salsa verde, Jack cheese)

Click here to continue reading The Week’s Most Intriguing Burgers

Restaurant Ad Spending Stalls in 2014

Top10AdCategories2014After four years of solid growth in ad spending that outpaced other businesses, the restaurant industry pulled back in 2014. The change reflects major chains’ decisions to slow the pace of new menu item introductions as they simplify operations. It also may have resulted from shifting advertising dollars to digital media.

Last year, restaurants spent $6.462 billion on measured-media advertising, just a 0.1% increase over the previous year, according to data released by Kantar Media. That ends a series of strong spending increases by restaurants: up 5.2% in 2013, +4% in 2012, +4.4% in 2011 and +2.3% in 2010.

Restaurants actually lagged behind the 0.7% increase for total U.S. ad spending in 2014. Spending was high early in the year, thanks to the Winter Olympics and World Cup (on both of which McDonald’s Corp. spent heavily), said Kantar, but overall spending in Q4 was down 1.6% compared with a year earlier.

Online advertising—which includes display ads but not video or mobile ad formats—was up 0.9% over 2013 spending. The biggest gains were seen for Spanish-language TV (+14.7%) and cable TV (+6.8%), with most other media channels showing a decline in sales.

2014 Sales by the Top 5 Burger Chains

BurgerBusiness.com’s annual update shows that the balance of power at the top of the burger-chain pyramid remains unchanged. Given some of the reporting that has appeared recently, one might guess that the McDonald’s empire had crumbled. While 2014 unquestionably was a bad year for the Arches, its industry supremacy remains intact. In global sales, U.S. sales and average sales per store it easily outdistances its burger competitors. Its $35 billion in U.S. sales is nearly nine times that for media darling Chipotle Mexican Grill, although Chipotle’s $2.472 million in average-store sales may have eclipsed McDonald’s (thanks in part to higher prices).

Wendy’s this year released company and franchised sales data, making comparisons easier. Last year’s estimates here were close and it appears Wendy’s truly did pass Burger King in 2013 for the No. 2 spot in North American sales. This year it has just edged Burger King to remain in the second spot. [Click the table below to see a larger version]

To5Chains 2014

Chef Creating McDonald’s Swiss Menu

In announcing disappointing sales for February this week, McDonald’s Corp. said its near-term goal is to “reassert McDonald’s as a modern, progressive burger company.” What does that mean? In Switzerland, at least, it means positioning McDonald’s as an upscale, better-burger competitor with chef-created menu items available nowhere else.

The Classic, by René Schudel

The Classic, by René Schudel

Last year, the chain’s Swiss operation made news when it launched a new “Signature” menu anchored by a burger labeled The Prime priced at $12 US. This and other new items introduced then were created by René Schudel, a popular TV chef. Now the Signature line and René Schudel are back with a new burger at a still-premium but more modest price.

The Signature line’s new The Classic burger is 180 grams (6.35 oz.) of Swiss beef with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, onion and a special mayo created by Schudel. It’s served on what McDonald’s is calling a home-style roll. The Classic is priced at 9.90 Swiss francs ($9.86 US) a la carte or 13.90 Swiss francs ($13.85) as part of a combo meal.

“The Classic is, as you can tell from the name, a new take on a classic burger. It represents everything that an authentic burger needs to have: flavor, size, and character,” said Schudel in announcing the launch.

Returning to McDonald’s Signature menu in Switzerland is another Schudel creation, the Chicken Club. The build combines a chicken breast with bacon sourced from Liechtenstein, lettuce, red onion, aïoli and tomato sauce. It carries the same price as The Classic burger.

There’s more: 100% Swiss Country Fries have been added to then Signature menu as well. These crispy fries are served with a Schudel-created Smoky Tomato Dip and are priced at 4.50 Swiss francs ($4.48 US) as a side dish or an additional 1.00 Swiss franc ($1 US) charge as part of a combo.

Habit Burger Sees 2,000-Unit Future

“Who?” was a common response last July when Consumer Reports declared that The Habit Burger Grill has America’s best-tasting burgers, topping In-N-Out, Five Guys, Smashburger and others. Considering the Irvine-Calif.-based chain barely had 100 units, almost all of them in California, the confusion was understandable. But the announcement “did incredible things for our business,” President-CEO Russ Bendel told analysts yesterday during Habit Burger’s first earnings call since going public last fall.

Habit Burger’s Q4 results were indeed incredible, including a 13.2% increase in comparative sales (5.1% from check average; 7.7.5 from increased transactions). For the year, comp sales were 10.7% higher (3.7% from check; 6.8% from transaction increase). For the year, revenues rose 48.2% as the chain added 24 new units to close the year with 109.

Habit Burger_VallejoEmboldened by the results, Bendel told analysts he sees the opportunity for 2,000 Habit Burger locations. That will come slowly, but he said the chain—which opened in 1969—will open 25 to 28 company locations and from two to five franchised units in 2015 and could double in size in four years.

Those franchised locations may nontraditional units at colleges or airports. Bendel said franchised units will remain less than 10% of the total for the near future.

Habit_slider_charburgerHabit Burger last fall jumped across the country to open in Fairlawn, N.J. A unit in River Edge, N.J., will open soon and continued expansion in New Jersey is a near-term goal. Leases have been signed for a first location in Washington, D.C., Bendel said, as well as two locations between Delray and Miami, Fla. A restaurant in Dubai will open in the second half of this year.

Bendel and CFO Ira Fils said new formats this year could include in-line endcap units that allow for a drive-thru window. Four Habit Burger locations have drive-thrus now and the chain would like to do have more, “especially in markets with strong brand awareness,” Bendel said.

He said Habit Burger’s strengths are its food quality, warm environment, genuine hospitality and pricing that he said is below the low end for most fast-casual competitors. The chain’s char-grilled burgers are priced from roughly $2.95 up. In addition to burgers, The Habit Burger Grill serves chicken, tuna and steak sandwiches and salads. Sides include Tempura Green Beans, an addition priced at $2.95 that sold well enough to help account for the chain’s sharp rise in average check during the second half of 2014.

What McDonald’s Can Learn From Canada

Well, that didn’t work. McDonald’s Corp. reported a 4% decline in comp sales for February, the month it rolled out the sweet “Choose Lovin’” campaign. Even those who did don’t seem to have chosen McDonald’s as well.

So now what? McDonald’s can either decide it’s in the middle of a two-year “correction” that will result in a slightly smaller but stable U.S. operation or it can continue its attempt to rebuild sales and consumer attitudes. If it wants to do the latter, it might look at its Canadian operation for pointers.

McDonald’s Canada last week began a new “Welcome to McDonald’s” campaign. It drops the “Please just listen to us for a minute” desperation of the “Our food. Your questions.” campaign that ran first in Canada and then in U.S. and it avoids the Hello-Kitty-cuteness of the “Lovin’” ditties. Instead, the new advertising reverts to what worked in 1980s: Positioning McDonald’s as a friendly, convenient, affordable place to go, meet and eat. No “What’s really in McNuggets” guilt trips. No “Yes, we have an app!” Millennial pandering. No “Yes, we have customization!”

All that is fine. But a better positioning for McDonald’s, one that might build sales here as in Canada, is embodied in one of the new TV spots this way: “Is there a place that makes room for everybody? Somewhere that welcomes you no matter what your name is, where you’re from or what you do. Somewhere to catch up with friends. Or with the world. To share a meal or just a laugh. A place to be with your family, whatever that may be. “Is there a place that connects with those around you and that will accept you for who you are. I work at that place.”

McD_Canada_Welcome1McDonald’s agency N/A drove across Canada and filmed vignettes with 400 people at its restaurants including “Katie,” a rock climber who lives in her van. As Hope Bagozzi, senior director of creative and digital innovation for the chain, says in the introductory video in the series, “This campaign is absolutely all about people. We get to see the humanity, the smiles, the warmth, the values, the caring. And, you know, that’s what makes people so great.”

The campaign leverages McDonald’s unassailable strength: Its restaurants are everywhere. They are in every neighborhood. Canada makes it a positive, asserts it a badge of community. Simplicity is good for advertising as it is for menus.

McD_canada_Welcome2It’s difficult to precisely gauge how well McDonald’s 1,400-store Canadian operation has done in contrast to the U.S. McDonald’s Corp. puts results for Canada—along with Caribbean, Central America and South America—in a “Other Countries & Corporate” (OCC) category in SEC filings. For 2014, the OCC category posted a 6.6% comp sales gain, compared with the -2.1% decline for the U.S. Much of that may have come from Arcos Dorados the franchisee that operates 2,070 restaurants in the area. It average an 8% comp-sales increase in the first three quarters. It reports Q4 and full-year earnings on March 17.

For February, disastrous for McDonald’s U.S, the company reported, “Strong comparable sales in McDonald’s Other Countries & Corporate segment contributed positively to the Company’s global comparable sales performance for the month.”

Even if Arcos Dorados has accounted for much of the OCC gain, Canada clearly isn’t dragging it down. It’s doing better than the U.S. and its performance is worth analyzing by new CEO Steve Easterbrook and his corporate staff.

Canada has done well by heavily promoting coffee—often with giveaways—to build breakfast sales as it battles Tim Hortons for morning supremacy. The absence of biscuits, not a Canadian tradition, simplifies the breakfast menu. Canada kept the Angus Third Pounder line after the U.S. stopped it, giving it a large burger with which to compete with the “better burger” brands. And it has created a more inventive list of premium-price items, such as the Jalapeňo Mighty Angus and Steak ‘n Caesar McWrap.

Harvey’s Expands Burger Customization

In what it is calling its biggest change ever, Canadian burger chain Harvey’s is embracing the trend to greater customer customization. Similar to the Subway or Chipotle model, customers will be able to choose from an expanded number of toppings, held in a refrigerated counter, which will be added by a crew member.

Ten new topping choices have been added, including jalapeňo slices, cucumber slices and tzatziki sauce. These join other produce options such as lettuce and onion and an array of sauces, including a new house “Harve Sauce.”

“Harvey’s is the home of the burger truly made the way you want it. Picking out your favorite toppings and having the burger built right in front of you,” Director of Marketing Ally Tosello for the nearly 300-store chain said in a release.

Harveys_BYOB2