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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The Best of Bon Appetit’s Best

Chef Michael Scelfo’s “secret burger” set off a social-media frenzy when he ran the kitchen at Russell House Tavern in Cambridge, Mass. He’d tease diners on Twitter or Facebook with hints about the day’s off-menu burger until they just had to have it. Last year he opened his own restaurant across town, Alden & Harlow, and the “secret burger” went with him.

Eggslut's Cheeseburger

Eggslut’s Cheeseburger

Scelfo prepares maybe three dozen of the burgers daily and hangs on to some so staff from other restaurants might get one on Alden & Harlow’s late-night menu when their shifts end. It’s listed on the menu as “Our 8-oz. House Creekstone Grind, Your Faith, House made Roll. $14. (limited availability).”

Alden & Harlow is included among 50 finalists this week for Bon Appetit magazine’s “America’s Best New Restaurants of 2014” honor. It also is one of just eight of these 50 restaurants to have the courage to create a burger for their menus. Menuing roasted garlic chicken is easy. Creating a great burger worthy of a great menu is difficult. Eight did it, including a Turkish restaurant. In addition to Alden & Harlow, they are:

Acorn, Denver
Oak Grilled Double Cheese Burger: Harissa aïoli, Gruyère cheese, tater tots; add fried egg, fried pickle, avocado or tender belly bacon for $1 each ($13; lunch)

CBD Provisions, Dallas
TX Grass Fed Beef Burger: Texas Cheddar, pickles, potato bun (both lunch & dinner) Click here to continue reading The Best of Bon Appetit’s Best

Restaurant Industry Unit Growth Sluggish

NPDCount_2The NPD Group says the total number of U.S. restaurants stood at 635,494 in its Spring (March) 2014 count. That’s flat compared with the 633,043 count for Fall 2013 and shows growth of just 0.8% since the Spring 2013 census.

The 351,359 independent restaurants in the Spring 2014 count account for 55.3% of the total. That’s down slightly from 55.5% in Spring 2013 but up a bit from a 54.7% share in Spring 2012. NPD says the number of independents declined by 71 since last fall but is up 0.4% (1,284) compared with a year ago

Chain restaurants’ share of the total number of restaurants stands at 44.7%. NPD says the number of chains has risen by 3,718 over the past year while independents have added 1,284 restaurants since the Spring 2013 count. Since Spring 2012, however, the number of independent restaurants has increased by 13,654; chain restaurants have increased by just 7,380.

Customer visits to major chain restaurants was flat for the 12 months ended June 2014, NPD says. Traffic for independents has dipped 1% over that period.

Quick-service restaurants continue to grow in number while the full-service category drifts lower. NPD counted 337,667 QSRs, a 2% gain from a year ago, but the 297,827 full-service restaurants was down 2,156 or 2% from Spring 2013.

For the year ended June 2014, NPD says the total number of consumer restaurant visits was flat compared with the previous year. QSR traffic was flat but casual-dining visits were down 3% and midscale restaurants saw a 4% decline.

Said Greg Starzynski, director-product management, NPD Foodservice: “Prior to the recession when industry traffic was strong and money was more available, the industry expanded units rapidly but in today’s market unit growth must be a calculated risk.”

Applebee’s Readies ‘All-In Burger’

A "leaked" video teases Applebee's new burger.

A “leaked” video teases Applebee’s new burger.

Applebee’s is preparing to introduce a new burger platform, the “All-In Burger,” on August 18 in its first major burger campaign since 2009’s “RealBurgers” effort.

A clumsy social-media campaign is teasing the introduction. On Facebook and Twitter Applebee’s has been directing attention to a YouTube video showing how the new burger is prepared. Applebee’s first made a show of acknowledging the validity of the video. On Facebook today, the chain “apologized” for the leak “& any cravings it might have caused.” Crispin Porter + Bogusky is Applebee’s ad agency. Janney Montgomery Scott analyst Mark Kalinowski advised clients today that the burger will hit stores next Monday.

Chceckers_ParmesanFriesThe “All-In” name refers to the smashing of the ground beef into its toppings—chopped onion, bacon and pickles—so that those ingredients are included in the patty. The burger also gets a slather of “signature sauce” and is served on a brioche bun. Earlier this year, Jack in the Box introduced the Bacon Insider, a burger with bacon blended into the patty and served on a brioche bun.

Applebee’s 2009 “RealBurgers” campaign back a five-item line of premium burgers priced at about $9. The number of All-In Burger varieties and pricing aren’t yet known.

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Addendum: BurgerBusiness.com recently reported on the increase in upscale french fries as a way to have menu news without launching disruptive entrées. McDonald’s test of “shaker” fries and Back Yard Burgers’ lunch of Garlic Parmesan Waffle Fries were offered as examples.

Now Checkers/Rally’s has created Garlic Parm Fries and Stix. These are seasoned fries and mozzarella sticks drizzled with a garlic-Parmesan butter sauce and grated Parmesan.

Social Media Drive Chicken Fries Return

BK_ChickenFries.350Any lingering doubts about social media’s influence on QSR menu development are dispelled by Burger King’s revival of Chicken Fries.

Introduced in 2005 and dropped from the menu in 2012, Chicken Fries have been a social-media topic ever since, according to Burger King CMO-North America Eric Hirschhorn. “Literally from the day Chicken Fries left the menu there has been an incredible outcry on social media to bring them back,” he said.

But a post in January 2014 on Buzzfeed, “35 Things From Your Childhood That Are Extinct Now,” that included Chicken Fries “really lit the fire” under the chain’s determination to bring the item back. Hirschhorn called it an example of how it has “leveraged social-media listening.”

Chicken Fries return as the same product—“white meat chicken coated in a light crispy breading seasoned with savory spices and herbs” and shaped like fries—but the packaging is different although still sized to fit car cupholders.

In line with Burger King’s determination to keep operations and menu as simple as possible, Chicken Fries return only as a 9-piece pack for $2.89. The 6- and 12-piece options have been dropped because most consumers bought the 9-piece size, Hirschhorn said.

Marketing for the product will be almost entirely via social-media channels. The exception is that Burger King will air original TV spots from the 2005 launch only on Thursdays in a nod to the popular “Throwback Thursday” fad on, yes, social media. Additionally, Burger King has teamed with eBay for a fan page through which Chicken Fries fanatics can buy a variety of apparel and accessories. The eBay page will go live on August 12. Profits from the merchandise go to the chain’s McLamore Foundation.

Chicken Fries are scheduled to be on the menu for three months, “but there’s so much demand, they may not last that long,” said Hirschhorn.

McDonald’s Value Test: $4.99 Combo Bag

McD_$4.99ComboBag_205The “meat-and-three” is a Southern restaurant tradition. Diners choose an entrée plus three side dishes to accompany it. Given that it’s appropriate that McDonald’s is testing a “meat-and-two” twist on its Dollar Menu & More in selected stores in Georgia.

The $4.99 McDonald’s Combo Bag invites customers to choose one sandwich from among four Dollar Menu & More options: Double Cheeseburger; Bacon Cheddar McChicken Bacon McDouble; or Bacon Ranch McChicken.

Next customers choose two sides from among medium fries, a 4-piece Chicken McNuggets pack, a side salad, pie or sundae/cone. They complete the meal with a beverage, choosing from among a medium soft drink, medium sweet tea, bottled water or medium iced coffee. A small McCafé shake or frappe can be added for an additional $1.

The Combo Bag isn’t a flashy innovation. But it is in line with the company’s belief that it needs to simplify its menu and operations and focus what CEO Don Thompson calls the chain’s “foundational elements.” In the Q2 conference call on July 22, Thompson said the first of those core elements is value. “We are evaluating the relationship between pricing and quality perception across our menu board and that’s because value is one of our grand pillars. So we must continue to fortify our position within this key consumer attribute.”

As QSRs’ promotional focus shifts to side dishes, will consumers perceive McDonald’s Combo Bag as a better value than Burger King’s “2 for $5” offer or KFC’s “$5 Fill Up Meals”? That’s what McDonald’s is testing in Georgia without adding any new menu items. If the value perception isn’t there, McDonald’s will try something else because standing still clearly isn’t an option.

Innovation Drives Chain Sales Gains

Burger giants Wendy’s and Jack in the Box reported strong performances in the last quarter. Both had solid same-store sales; both credited their gains in part to menu innovation. But 36-store Good Times Burgers & Frozen Custard proved their match in both categories.

Good Times' PawBender for dogs

Good Times’ PawBender for dogs

Golden-Colo. Based Good Times reported a same-store sales gain of 12.5% for the quarter ended June 20, 2014. That was on top of a 15.2% increase a year earlier. The chain has achieved the stunning gains by tightening operations and innovating on the menu. Last month it introduced a Hatch Valley Green Chile menu that includes Green Chile Chicken, Burger and Chorizo Tortas. “This introduction is further support to our brand position of offering authentic regional ingredients in handcrafted menu items that are unique to Good Times,” said Boyd Hoback, President & CEO. “We believe we have some of the best green chile available in Colorado and our success with Green Chile Cheese Fries and our Breakfast Burritos is a natural opportunity to extend the offerings.” The menu also has the PawBender for dogs: vanilla custard, doggie biscuits and peanut butter in a cup.

Good Times also is opening full-service Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar in Colorado through its BD of Colorado subsidiary. A second unit recently opened in Northglenn, Colo., and a third opens this fall. Another five to eight are planned for 2015, “all of which are in upscale lifestyle shopping centers with solid upper-middle income demographics, which appears to be the sweet spot for the Bad Daddy’s concept,” Hoback said. A separate subsidiary—Bad Daddy’s Franchise Development LLC–handles Bad Daddy’s franchising outside Colorado.

Jack in the Box's Spicy Chicken Club

Jack in the Box’s Spicy Chicken Club

• Wendy’s reported a 3.9% same-store sales gain for its 1,005 company-owned stores and a 3.1% rise for its 6,547 franchised units. The company also announced plans to sell its 135 company stores in Canada to franchisees there. This comes as it is refranchising 418 restaurants in the U.S.

CEO Emil Brolick credited the gains to its “Image Activation [remodeling] program and spring product promotions, including our Tuscan Chicken on Ciabatta sandwich and our new Asian Cashew Chicken, Barbeque Ranch Chicken and Strawberry Fields Chicken salads, [which] helped drive sales in the second quarter by successfully leveraging our brand heritage of quality and innovation.”

Jack in the Box also pointed to menu innovation as a reason for its 2.4% increase in same-store sales during its Q# ended July 6, 2014. Management pointed to the Hella-peňo Munchie Meal and Breakfast Monster Taco as having helped sales in its strongest daypart: late night and breakfast. The chain is rolling out a Spicy Chicken Club sandwich, in addition to the Croissant Donuts and larger breakfast burritos it introduced earlier this week.

EVP-CFO Jerry Rebel promised “menu innovations in all dayparts” in the future, adding that “product innovation is going to drive success.” That innovation will include new platforms, new ingredients and new presentations, he said.

Jack in the Box Warms to Croissant Donuts

Jack_Croissant Donuts_lowNo, these aren’t the Cronuts that New York City pastry chef Dominique Ansel dreamed up last year. These are Croissant Donuts (left), the new breakfast item from Jack in the Box.

Jack in the Box - Meat Lovers Breakfast BurritoServed hot and dusted with cinnamon sugar, Croissant Donuts are, according to the chain’s release, “the perfect pop-able, portable and sharable breakfast for those on-the-go. Combining the sweetness of a donut with the buttery flakiness of a croissant.” The LTO tidbits, tested earlier this year, are 89¢ apiece or three for $1.99.

And no, those aren’t Chipotle burritos. Those are Jack in the Box’s bigger breakfast burritos, now wrapped in foil. The two new varieties are The Grande Sausage Breakfast Burrito with eggs, sausage, hash browns, bacon and a new creamy Sriracha sauce. The Meat Lovers Breakfast Burrito (right) has the trinity of breakfast meats: sausage, ham and bacon. Both are wrapped in large tortillas and served with a side of salsa. Suggested intro price is $3.29.

In June, Jack in the Box expanded its 24-hour breakfast menu lineup with the addition of a Breakfast Monster Taco (an oversize tacos topped with scrambled eggs, two half slices of American cheese and taco sauce).

In Solitary: Most Meals Eaten Alone

McD_Solo Business.comFor most Americans, eating a meal is a solitary rather than social occasion.

More than half (57%) of all eating occasions (both at-home and away-from-home) in the U.S. are people eating alone, according to data from The NPD Group. It notes that 27% of U.S. households now consist of a single person, the highest level in U.S. history.

Breakfast is the loneliest daypart, NPD finds, with 60% of meals consumed alone. Given the number of breakfasts consumed on the run, in cars or at desks, this is understandable. At lunch the percentage of solo meals declines to 55%, though still a majority.

At least there’s company for dinner: Diners eat alone for just 32% of evening meals. Nearly half of families with children eat dinner together at least five times a week, NPD reports.

Says NPD F&B analyst Darren Seifer, “The number of solo eating and beverage occasions has wide-ranging implications for food and beverage marketers in terms of new products, packaging and positioning. As lifestyles shift, it’s key for marketers to profile and segment occasions when their product is consumed in various ways, including solo versus social occasions, in order to connect most effectively with consumers.”