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 Asiago Veggie Burger with Kale Parmesan Caesar Salad shown below!

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Better Bacon Means Better Burgers

Go to the JONES FARM RECIPE PAGE to get the Dry Aged Cherrywood Beer Burger recipe for May.

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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National Burger Month Highlights

IronHill_AlpineEvery month is burger month on this site, so I don’t really do many “May is National Burger Month” festivities. However, a few chains and restaurants do put together events for the month that merit a nod. These aren’t the May Burger of the Month specials, though: That roundup will be on the site next week. But some places have created interesting burgers for the occasion.

The perennial champ of Burger Month is the Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant chain, based in Wilmington, Del. It’s not a burger chain per se, but each May it offers a different burger on each of the month’s 31 days. That’s a lot of planning so it’s worth a look. Today’s burger is the Alpine (pictured at left) with fried onion rings, bacon, Swiss cheese and horseradish sauce. Tomorrow it will be followed by the Bacon Lover’s Burger with tomato-bacon jam, applewood-smoked bacon, bacon aïoli and smoked Gouda. You can check the whole month’s lineup here.

Loews Portofino Burger

Loews’ Portofino Buddha Burger

Loews Hotels & Resorts is celebrating National Burger Month by having individual properties create new signature burgers and pair them with local craft beers. At Loews Portofino Bay Hotel in Orlando, Chef Leon Teow created a Portofino Buddha Burger. The patty is Angus beef and Kalbi Korean short rib and it’s tapped with Uniagi sake sauce, pickled vegetables, pea sprouts and sriracha mayo. The pairing is Funky Buddha Brewery’s Floridian Hefeweizan. At Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in Nashville, Chef Brandon Frohne has a Don Quixote Burger: a brisket/short rib patty with avocado slaw, queso flameado chorizo, a sunny-side-up, padron peppers and Goo Goo Cluster mole. What would go with that, you ask? Jackalope Brewing’s Thunder Ann APA.

Del Frisco’s Grille in Phoenix will be doing a pairing, too. Its Burger Month special is the Prime Beef & Chorizo, topped with fried pickled jalapeños, lettuce, tomato, red onion and chipotle mayo. The sidekick is Upslope Brewing’s Upslope Pale Ale. Michael Mina 74 at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach will feature a different new burger each week. Chef de Cuisine Thomas Griese’s first creation is the Coast to Coast Burger. It’s a chorizo-beef patty with fresh avocado, bacon, sunny-side-up egg and crunchy fried potatoes.

Slater_OldTimey209At Wild Sea Oyster Bar & Grille in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Executive Chef Toby Joseph will have a new burger each week. He kicks it off with Joseph’s Lamb Burger with Manchego cheese, white-bean hummus, arugula and a tomato and cucumber salad.

Georgie Porgie’s in Oak Creek, Wis., is letting customers in on the fun. It has been asking guests for suggested builds for its National Burger Month special. The winner gets a free burger of the month for a year, a party for 20 friends and a t-shirt. RJ Grunt’s in Chicago is showcasing past burger of the month specials all during May.

Slater’s 50/50 burger joints in Southern California are offering its Old Timey Burger and side of fries for just $10 all month. But today only (May 1), if you can get there during the first 2 hours and 9 minutes after opening, the burger’s just $2.09 (the concept opened in 2009). Cassell’s Hamburgers in Los Angeles’ Hotel Normandie is waiting until next week to celebrate: On May 8 it will be serving burgers for just 99¢.

McDonald’s Tests Smaller TasteCrafted Platform

McDonald’s Corp. already is testing a smaller, cheaper and more drive-thru-friendly version of the Create Your Taste customization platform that has been touted as central to its drive to become what CEO Steve Easterbrook calls “a modern progressive burger company.”

Testing in the Central Coast of California co-op (north of Los Angeles, from Santa Barbara to Paso Robles) and a few Oregon markets (including Hillsboro), this new platform, called TasteCrafted is a streamlined version of Create Your Taste. Janney Montgomery Scott restaurant analyst Mark Kalinowski first reported the test today. He says the new version would cost far less than the $125,000 that one franchisee said the Create Your Taste platform would cost per-store and could be rolled out sooner.

It’s a 3-step ordering process. First choose quarter-pound beef, Artisan Grilled Chicken or crispy chicken as the protein. Next choose a bun (artisan roll, sesame-seed bun or potato roll). Finally pick one of four “flavors” or toppings packages: Bacon Clubhouse (bacon, sauce, onions); Pico Guacamole (guacamole, pico de gallo); Hot Jalapeňo (jalapeňo slices, spicy cheese, sauce, tomato); or Deluxe (lettuce, tomato, mayo, red onion.

It’s customization but it’s not “Have it however you want it.” Choices are minimal (Create Your Taste offers eight topping options and seven sauces) and controlled. That’s what may make it more appealing to McDonald’s operators since they fear having kitchen flow slowed or crashed by full-on customization.

What operators may like a little less is the limited-time discount promotion to build trial: Free soft drink (any size) and fries with TasteCrafted purchase (through May 10). Drinks and fries are high-margin items.

Writes Kalinowski, “TasteCrafted can apparently be done both in the restaurant and in the drive-thru (important because 60%+ of McDonald’s U.S. business is conducted via the drive-thru), whereas the Create Your Taste test is (so far at least) not available at the drive-thru.”

On its site, Oregon franchisee UTB Enterprises promotes TasteCrafted as “A bold new way to order your lunch & dinner.” It explains the benefits this way: “Refocusing the menu allows a faster, more accurate and more enjoyable ordering experience. Know that you are getting what you want every time.”

Kalinowski won’t speculate whether TasteCrafted will be part of McDonald’s promised May 4 announcement of the first steps in a new turnaround strategy for the brand. But while Create Your Taste was developed in Australia during former-CEO Don Thompson’s administration, TasteCrafted may well be a product of Easterbrook’s new team. If so that could weigh heavily in its favor.
McDonald's TastCrafted Menu

Shake Shack Expanding Breakfast

ShakeShack_Breakfast_DCShake Shack is edging deeper into the QSR breakfast competition. Beginning May 11, the Shake Shack unit in Washington, D.C.’s Union Station will add a breakfast menu, something currently found only at the chain’s locations in JFK and Dubai International airports and New York’s Grand Central Terminal. In D.C., breakfast will be served between 7 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

The menu mirrors those found at many other QSRs, including three varieties of breakfast sandwiches: a Sausage Egg N’ Cheese ($4.75), Bacon Egg N’ Cheese ($4.75) and Egg N’ Cheese ($3.75). All use Niman Ranch’s cage-free eggs and are served on toasted potato buns. The sausage and bacon are all-natural products.

And as every QSR has learned, a breakfast menu is only as good as the coffee served. Shake Shack will be serving and exclusive organic blend from Stumptown Coffee Roasters priced at $2.25 for a 12 oz. cup; $2.75 for 16 oz. Additionally a Stumptown cold brew-steeped and cold-pressed iced coffee, bottled in Brooklyn, will be offered ($4.75 for 10.5 oz). Fair trade hot breakfast tea is $2 for 12 oz.

Juices? Yes, Shake Shack’s morning menu has that covered as well: freshly squeezed organic orange juice ($4 for 12 oz.) and organic apple juice ($1.85 for 6.75 oz.).

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