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!


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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The Week’s Most Intriguing Burgers

Burger creativity accelerates in spring. If you doubt that, take a look at the BurgerBusiness.com New Menu Item Archive and see how many new burger ideas have come on since the March doldrums. Below are a few of the more notable builds spotted on menus in the past week. There are many more. And if need additional inspiration over the long weekend, you’re always welcome in BurgerBusiness.com’s Killer Burger Recipes vault. Enjoy.

Victory Burger, Oakland

Victory Burger, Oakland, Calif.
Gold Beets Two Ways
Five Dot Ranch burger with Riverdog gold beet chips with tempura beet greens, spicy plum-blueberry compote and plain mayo on an Acme kaiser roll

Sausage & Bacn

McDonald’s, UK & Ireland
Sausage & Bacon Sandwich
Pork sausage patty, three slices of bacon, cheese and grilled onions on ciabatta with choice of brown sauce or ketchup

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

Trendspotting at the NRA Show

No one understands the foodservice business in the UK and Europe better than Peter Backman, managing director of London-based researcher Horizons. He also is one of the sharpest observers of the trends evident at the annual National Restaurant Association Show. Peter Backman was on the show floor for this year’s just-completed event as well and BurgerBusiness.com is pleased to share his insightful report, titled “The New Normal.”NRA Show floorNRA Show floor

In his introduction, Backman writes: “Two words were on everybody’s lips – Millennials and Fast Casual. They formed the leitmotiv of this year’s NRA Show. Later on, we comment on what these words mean but they translate into the confirmation that the world of tomorrow will be different from today’s because the latest cohort of new consumers – the Millennials – have different perceptions, aspirations and lifestyles from their predecessors – Gen X, Baby Boomers and the rest.

“While Millennials aren’t the only people attracted to Fast Casual outlets, they are hugely influential in their emergence. The sector is growing significantly faster than any other sector in the restaurant space whether quick service, casual dining, family dining, or fine dining.

“Overall the US foodservice sector is forecast to grow at a shade under 2% in real terms in 2015 (that’s getting on for 4% in nominal terms) – and the outlook is brightening which means the outturn may be slightly better…The overall take away is that the US foodservice market is expanding just a bit, and because one specific sector – Fast Casual – is a clear winner, it is clear to everyone where they should be focusing their attention.”

There’s a long weekend coming up. I invite you to spend a small part of it reading Peter Backman’s complete report, which can be accessed here.

Has Carl’s Jr. Shattered the $5 Burger Ceiling?

Carl’s Jr. tomorrow (May 20) introduces its Most American Thickburger and most eyes will be on TV spokesmodel Samantha Hoopes or the burger’s unusual combination of a third-pound Angus beef patty topped with a split hot dog and potato chips. But what quick-service restaurant operators see is a test of consumer resistance to higher pricing. Given the push for higher minimum wages, high beef prices and the continuing crush of operations overhead, price elasticity will be increasingly critical to operators.

CarlsJr._MostAmericanThickburgerCarl’s Jr. and sibling Hardee’s have priced the new cheeseburger (at r.) at $5.79 for the third-pound version and $8.29 for a combo. Boom. That doesn’t just inch over QSRs’ longstanding $5 line in the sand for QSR burger prices; it shatters it. With its signature bravado, Carl’s Jr. ventures where other QSR burger chains have longed to go but couldn’t pull the trigger.

Last year, Wendy’s reportedly tested a Beef Brisket Cheeseburger priced at $5.99 a la carte. But the Pulled Pork Cheeseburger it ultimately introduced nationally last September was back under the ceiling at $4.99. That’s the same price it used for the return of the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger and Pretzel Pub Chicken Sandwich. The Jalapeňo Fresco Spicy Chicken Sandwich Wendy’s added last month and the Bacon & Blue on Brioche before it? Both $4.99.

MCD12960_Sirloin_Group.tifJack in the Box’s late-night-only Munchie Meals are $6, but these include sides and a drink. For burgers, Jack has stayed below that $5 price point. The Spicy Sriracha Burger came out at $4.59; the new Buttery Jack upscale burgers are priced at $4.49 or $4.79.

And, of course, McDonald’s new Sirloin Third Pound burgers (at l.) have joined its menu, priced at $4.99.

The self-imposed $5 ceiling was apparently based on the idea that consumers wouldn’t spend more than that on a burger. Carl’s Jr.’s own “Six Dollar Burger” label was based on the idea that you’d pay that much for a comparable burger at a casual-dining restaurant. But having niched itself in-between QSRs and casual dining, fast casual hasn’t hesitated to charge $5 and up for a burger. The bottom-run single ShackBurger at Shake Shack is $5.19; the ShackMeister LTO it added in December starts at $6.19. The cheapest option at Smashburger is $4.99 (Chicago prices) and burgers range up to $7.29. The Counter’s signature burger is $12 and half-pounders can hit nearly $16.

You can debate whether quick-service burgers match the quality of fast-casual or casual-dining burgers. If the necessary perceived value isn’t there, QSRs will stay below $5. But if Carl’s Jr.’s Most American Thickburger is a solid success, watch for the next round of new quick-service burgers to be priced at $5.09, $5.19, $5.49 or higher because leveraging consumers’ willingness to pay a little more is really the “Most American” thing of all.

Square 1 Burgers Rounds Out Its Menu

Square 1 Burgers & Bar is ready to kick it up a notch, as Emeril Lagasse would say. With eight Florida locations open and two more opening in the state soon, the full-service concept is ready to explore franchising to accelerate growth. It also recently launched a “Beyond the Bun” initiative that broadened its menu. BurgerBusiness.com spoke with the Tampa, Fla.-based chain’s CEO, President and Executive Chef Joanie Corneil, who developed the concept with her husband, Bill Shumate (whose Oklahoma roots are reflected in the menu).

Tell me about “Beyond the Bun.” I hope it doesn’t mean you’re not turning your back on burgers!
We’re not. We started “Beyond the Bun” six months ago with four new items. I just added one more so we have five and that’s probably where we’ll stay for a while.

Square 1 Kobe Burger

The Kobe Red Wine & Bleu Burger

I’m a chef by trade, and creating new things is what we chefs like to do. But also we found that a lot of people were ordering some of the many proteins we offer off the bun—on greens or separate. We played around with the idea of different entrees and did some weekend specials with center-of-the-plate type of things. They were very well received.

You’ve operated Bella’s Italian Cafe in Tampa since 1986. Did the new entrees come from the Bella’s menu?
Just one of them: Romano-crusted chicken. But the others—flash-seared sirloin with caponata aïoli; an Oklahoma meatloaf recipe with American Wagyu beef; and sesame glazed salmon—weren’t. We just added Country Fried Steak with Biscuits, and I made an incredible Tasso ham gravy that goes over it.

We also have added two new burgers. One is a Kobe Red Wine & Bleu burger with applewood-smoked bacon, Cabernet-braised sweet caramelized red and creamy bleu cheese aïoli. And then a Double Bacon “Boomer Sooner” burger. That’s been well received, too, as you can imagine.

Who is the audience you’re looking to attract with a broader menu?
It’s families. I’d say 60% of the groups who come in have children with them. A main reason people like Square 1 is that if they have kids, we’re their favorite place to eat. Adding these entrees offers more options for the adults. We have lots of craft beers and cocktails and wine. They want a real dinner and their kids are happy to eat here, too.

We’ve both seen burger bars that have tilted more to bar than burger. Are you staying away from that?
We’re full-service with linen napkins and all. I’m not a fast-casual gal: I want to be waited on. Our bar sales are less than 20% of sales; maybe 16% to 18%. Our beer sales are 10% to 11%; wine is maybe 2.5% of sales That’s not a lot. At Bella’s the bar is 28% but we sell so much wine there. We’d love to have higher bar sales [at Square 1] but we’re more food-driven than some other concepts.

We want the family business. After we opened in 2008, we got requests for another side option for kids. We had coleslaw and baked beans and french fries. Some parents didn’t want them to have fries so I put on steamed broccoli and more than half the children’s meals that go out have broccoli on them. Parents love that. Their child gets a burger, maybe, and a healthy side too. Click here to continue reading Square 1 Burgers Rounds Out Its Menu

This Week’s Most Intriguing Burgers

Every week should end with good-looking burgers. This week has been especially interesting, beginning with new research on non-meat burgers, then turnaround details from the biggest chain and now preparations by many for this weekend’s National Restaurant Show in Chicago. I’ll be there; you’ll know me by the mustard stains.

Hache Burgers, London

Haché Burgers, London
Mediterranean Lamb Burger
A 6-oz. lamb patty seasoned with paprika, coriander and spring onions topped with a fresh salsa of olives, oranges, red onion and lemon juice on harissa-and-yogurt sauce; served on toasted brioche

Carl's Jr. Most American

Carl’s Jr. U.S. locations
The Most American Thickburger
Coming May 20, this is a ⅓- or ½-lb. Angus patty with lettuce, tomato, American cheese, a split hot dog and Lay’s Kettle Cooked Potato Chips. Yep.







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

McDonald’s: Lower Prices, Faster Ordering

McDonald’s is considering menu boards that present customers with lower prices on some core items and a limited “Mickey D’s best” selection at both the drive-thru window and inside counter.

The Wall Street Journal this week outlined some of the plans the company recently shared with its operators, including simplifying the drive-thru menu and strengthening its array of midprice items between $1.50 and $3. But BurgerBusiness.com has learned that advertising prepared for the company shows a new “Build Your Meal” approach to ordering that could be offered to both inside and drive-thru customers.
McDonald's Build Your Meal board

“Here’s to a new day,” one drive-thru-focused commercial begins. “Introducing lower prices on many entrees. From classic faves to premium tastes. It’s Mickey D’s best for a price that’s even better.”

Another commercial, focused on counter ordering says, “Now enjoy lower prices on classic tastes like the Big Mac or Quarter Pounder with Cheese. You can build a meal you love for a price that’s even less.”

“Build Your Meal” isn’t a customization format like “Create Your Taste” or “TasteCrafted.” It facilitates speedier ordering and service. Menu boards at the drive-thru or counter guide ordering: “Step 1: choose an entrée” from among core items such as Big Mac, Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Premium Chicken Sandwich or 10-pice McNuggets. Step 2: add side items. The choices are any size soft drink/sweet tea, medium fries,  side salad or dessert.

McDonald's Build Your Meal Drive-Thru

The choices are limited but it guides customers through assembling a combo meal with higher-margin sides and drinks. Those high-margin sides offset lower entree prices.

Also included on inside and outside menu boards is a new bundled multi-person Classic Pack option with two Quarter Pounders, two medium fries, 20-piece McNuggets and four sauces. A smaller Value Pack meal may also be offered.

Lower-priced “McValue Menu” items aren’t excluded. But on the drive-thru menu they’re listed below Happy Meal options. McCafé beverage options also their own menu-board panel.

McDonald’s menu boards are digital, so they could easily be rearranged to feature limited-time specials or core products other than those shown. I don’t know when or if this “Build Your Meal” approach could be adopted systemwide, and the company’s not saying what it discussed with its franchisees. But it’s clear that simplifying ordering and steering guests to more popular, more quickly prepared or more profitable items is what the chain has in mind for the “modern, progressive burger company” it is building.

New Burgers Benefit Jack, Shack

Both quick-service Jack in the Box and “fine-casual” Shake Shack and reported solid quarters and both were aided by introductions of popular new burgers as well as price increases. The latter indicates lessening consumer resistance to slightly higher checks, which can help all restaurants.

Buttery Jack burger

Jack in The Box’s new Buttery Jack burger

But the market remains highly competitive and sometimes edgy. Asked about the impact of the foray by Taco Bell and others into breakfast, Jack in the Box Chairman-CEO Lenny Comma noted that Jack has been in the daypart for a long time and that it will take rivals a long time to establish a serious presence there. He also laid down this challenge: “We know the space we play in and there’s no reason for us to change. We’ll stick to our space, but if folks encroach on our space, we’ll respond. You can count on that.”

For its Q2, ended April 12, 2015, Jack in the Box reported an 8.9% system increase in comparative sales. Company-stores’ 7.4% increase was the result of a 2.4% gain in transactions, 2.9% from mix changes and 2.1% from price. Comma called the ability to increase both average check and transactions “a real win.”

The primary drivers in the check-mix improvement were the premium-price Buttery Jack burgers that Jack in the Box added in January. These burgers have pre-seasoned patties and melted garlic butter. The Classic Buttery Jack is $4.49; the Bacon & Swiss Buttery Jack is $4.79. Comma said they were Jack’s most successful new product at least in the 14 years he has been with the company. Click here to continue reading New Burgers Benefit Jack, Shack

Bareburger’s Naked Global Ambition

Bareburger_BurgerFriesBareburger opened its first restaurant in 2009 in Astoria, Queens. The points of difference included a menu with all-natural, pasture-raised meats—including bison, elk and boar—and cage-free/hormone-free poultry plus more organic ingredients than are found in most burger joints. In the past six years, it has spread across New York City and recently opened in Toronto, its first location outside the U.S. As is clear from BurgerBusiness.com’s interview with founder and CEO Euripides Pelekanos, Bareburger has global designs.


When you first opened Bareburger it was something different on the burger scene. Do you find you still need to educate customers about your food?
It’s interesting but today we don’t spend as much time educating our guests as we did five years ago, which is a really nice thing. The mainstream, if you want to call it that, has caught on and there are no explanations needed. They just know the food is better for them. Even more important is that they know where their food comes from. It’s such a key thing for anyone going out to eat or to shop at the supermarket.

It also surprised a lot of people to go into a burger place and see different salads on the menu. Not just a “Caesar Salad.” You look at the salads at most burger places and it’s the same lettuce they use on their burgers, so maybe there’s a Chopped Caesar but little else. Ours have baby kale and baby spinach and cauliflower hummus, red quinoa and watermelon radishes. How many other burger places have watermelon radishes? Not too many.

Bareburger, Columbus, Ohio

Bareburger in Columbus, Ohio

I was more surprised that people said, “Wow, you have wild boar and elk and sometimes ostrich on your menu.” Beef still reigns supreme but we do have turkey, ground duck, elk, wild boar, bison—which is my personal favorite—and three types of veggie burgers.

What percentage of sales do meatless burgers account for?
Well, burgers in general are 55% of sales and 50% to 60% of that is beef. But veggie burgers are 10% to 12% burger orders, so one out of 10. Click here to continue reading Bareburger’s Naked Global Ambition