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 Gouda Garlic Burger shown below!


Visit the Killer Burger Recipe Vault

Want the recipe for the Cream Cheese Stuffed Garlic 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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‘Better Burger Project’ Finalists Named

Five finalists have been named for the “Better Burger Project” competition. Launched by the Mushroom Council on Memorial Day, it challenged chefs to blend ground meat with finely chopped mushrooms to create alternative burgers that are delicious, healthy and sustainable.

Bachi Burger mushroom burger

Bachi Burger’s entry

The finalists, who received the most Instagram uploads by consumers from among the 220 burger bars that entered, are:

Bachi Burger, Chef Lorin Watada; Nev. and Calif. locations
Belly Acres, Chef Rob Ray; Memphis
Blue Southern Comfort Food, Chef Carolyn Manning; Shreveport, La.
Burgh’ers Restaurant, Chef Fiore Moletz; Harmony, Pa.
Quaff On!, Chef Dan Nichols, Bloomington, Ind.

To see recipes and photos for these five finalists, please click here.

Chefs from these restaurants will meet in New York City October 18-20, 2015, and attend the annual James Beard Foundation Food Conference. They’ll serve their burgers at the welcoming reception at the James Beard House on Oct. 18. This year’s conference theme is “Rethinking the Future of Food.”


The Week’s Most Intriguing Burgers 8.14

This was such a good week for interesting burgers from around the world that I had to stop myself at 10. We have the return of Cronuts and the growing popularity of chorizo. Spanish Manchego cheese makes two appearances, and it truly is a terrific burger cheese. Vegetables continue to assert their right to be on burgers as roasted artichokes, eggplant and sweet peppers are represented here. And deep-fried sliders. Great week.

Hopdoddy Burger Bar

Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Austin
Beef patty, fried egg, prosciutto, Manchego cheese, salsa verde, onion, tomato and arugula salad on an egg bun

Zombie Burger Fried Sliders

Zombie Burger + Drink Lab, Des Moines
Two sliders with American cheese, bacon and onion, dipped in corndog batter and fried

Click here to continue reading The Week’s Most Intriguing Burgers 8.14

McDonald’s Tries Buttermilk Crispy Chicken

Having substituted new Artisan Grilled Chicken as an improvement for its grilled product this spring, McDonald’s now is introducing an improvement on its crispy chicken patty: Premium Buttermilk Crispy Chicken. The rollout had been expected.

The new chicken product was tipped, unexpectedly, in March by the Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) organization. In an email to social-media connections, McDonald’s describes the Premium Buttermilk Crispy Chicken sandwich as “a tender, juicy filet made with 100% chicken breast meat, real buttermilk, and no artificial colors. Plus fresh tomato, crisp leaf lettuce and mayonnaise. All atop our delectable artisan roll.”McDonald's Buttermilk Crispy Chicken The email says the sandwich is “coming soon.” The Buttermilk patty also will be available in Premium Salads and a McWrap.

Meanwhile, Wendy’s acknowledged that it, too, is looking at a “better chicken” item. During its Aug. 5 earnings call, Wendy’s CEO Emil Brolick said, “As part of our commitment to serving high quality, freshly prepared food, we have recrafted the recipe for our grilled chicken sandwich to elevate its flavor profile. The new grilled chicken sandwich, which is currently in test, features marinated grilled chicken spring – with spring mix, tangy herb sauce, and toasted multigrain bun. As part of this test, we are offering grilled chicken raised without antibiotics to determine our supply chain capabilities, as well as customer appeal.”

FARE reports that the test markets Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Jacksonville, Orlando, Gainesville, Kansas City and Austin, and that the grilled chicken is “served on a toasted Multigrain Bun featuring nine different grains and seeds including white sesame seeds, red quinoa and flax seed.”

QSRs’ Labor Productivity Challenge

As restaurants look ahead to the challenge of higher wages, quick-service operators already face a labor productivity deficit. The foodservice industry’s overall labor productivity—output per hour—rose just 0.3% from 2013 to 2014, compared with 2.6% for wholesale trade and a 1.9% increase for retail trade, according to new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But the overall foodservice number is skewed by a 4.7% decline in productivity for the “Special Food Services” category, which primarily includes caterers. Labor productivity just for full-service restaurants (FSR) rose 2.5% in 2014 (higher than the overall retail trade sector), but declined 0.8% for limited-service restaurants (LSR).

LSRs’ productivity decline is the result of a 2.6% increase in output that did not keep pace with a 3.4% increase in hours (i.e., annual hours worked by all employed persons in the sector). Labor compensation (payroll plus supplemental payments) rose 5.8% at both FSRs and LSRs. For overall the retail trade, compensation rose 4.8% last year.

Unit labor costs (the cost of labor required to produce one unit of output) rose 0.9% for FSRs and 3.0% for LSRs, which was more than triple the 0.8% average for all retail trade sectors.

The 2014 foodservice productivity data isn’t an outlier. Between 1987 and 2014, labor productivity increased at an annual rate of 0.4% for foodservice, compared with 3.1% for wholesale trade and 2.8% for retail trade. Click here to continue reading QSRs’ Labor Productivity Challenge

A Trio of Chicken News Bites

Could any burger QSR other than Shake Shack say it has raised prices a whopping 6% in the past year and not be vilified? McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s would be roasted by the Street; Motley Fool would froth with indignation.

But Shake Shack is a Wall Street darling, not just because it hails from Manhattan but also because its sales are, well, amazing. For the 12 weeks ended July 1, 2015, Shake Shack’s total sales were up 77.9% (thanks to five new store openings) and same-store sales rose 12.7%. That gain in comps was helped by the 6% price hike that factors into an 8.6% increase in average check, plus a 4.3% boost in guest traffic. CEO Randy Garutti said during the earnings call with analysts that media frenzy over its IPO helped bring customers.

Shake Shack Chicken Shack burger

Chicken Shack

But the most interesting numbers may be these: the company says it expects new openings to average annual sales between $2.8 million and $3.2 million (better than the $2.5 million for Wall Street’s other heartthrob, Chipotle) while disclosing that established stores did sales of $102,000 a week during the quarter. Although summer sales are highest for the brand, the Q2 average would extend to more than $5 million annually per store.

Garutti said the chain will open 12 domestic, company-owned stores in 2015, up from the projected 10, and another 12 next year (including first stores in Los Angeles, Phoenix and Scottsdale). Tokyo and Cardiff, Wales, get Shake Shacks next year. Think how high opening sales for the Tokyo location will be.

Garutti said the Chicken Shack LTO sold out two days after it was introduced in July for $6.29 in its three Brooklyn locations. It’s back at those stores now, and Garutti said Shake Shack hasn’t decided whether to expand availability. The current LTO, the $6.19 Roadside Shack cheeseburger, is selling well. Click here to continue reading A Trio of Chicken News Bites

5 Napkin: An American Burger Brasserie

5 Napkin Burger logo 2The name says burgers (for now at least), but 5 Napkin Burger is much more. Its six locations—three in Manhattan, where it began in 2008, with another opening soon; one in Yonkers, N.Y.; and one each in Boston and Miami Beach—have an eclectic menu where burgers star but sushi rolls, steak frites, tacos and entrée salads get plenty of attention. BurgerBusiness.com spoke with 5 Napkin Burger CEO Robert Guarino about the concept.

The “better burger” arena is crowded, with many concepts serving good burgers. Where does your confidence come from that diners will find and choose 5 Napkin?
With our brand, we really are a restaurant. We’re in the burger arena and are built around burgers, but we really see our segment as being the next-generation bar & grill. That’s what our background is and what our brand is. The 5 Napkin Burger [a 10-oz. patty with Gruyère cheese, caramelized onions and rosemary aïoli on a soft white roll] is our hero but we have a full menu built around that, beautiful interior design and full table service with big beverage service. The latest store [in Yonkers] has 16 draft beers and 50 bourbons on the back bar; great music; and a 60-item menu. So what’s unique about us as a burger brand, if that’s the term you want to use, is the quality we bring to the entire package. That’s our differentiation.

The 5 Napkin Burger

The original 5 Napkin Burger

You intended to be a restaurant in style and not just a burger bar from the start?
There are three main partners in the business; myself, Simon Oren and Andy D’Amico. Simon has about 20 restaurants in Manhattan; Andy and I are partners in many of them. The 5 Napkin Burger itself was created in 2003 in a restaurant on the west side of Manhattan called Nice Matin. The burger was Andy’s creation but he created it for a fine dining restaurant. That dish stole all the press at the opening so we always had in the backs of our minds that if we wanted to do a burger restaurant we had the name and the dish to build it around. But when we first conceptualized the restaurant, we were creating a one-off restaurant. Our plan wasn’t to create a brand; it was to create a great restaurant for the corner of 45th Street and 9th Avenue.

Simon has nine French brasseries so really 5 Napkin is our American brasserie. We brought everything to the brand that we always had done in our French restaurants: beautiful décor, big beverage service, casual-fine-dining service and all the other pieces.

Somewhat inadvertently we ended up with something that is a much different take on the burger category than most others. I think that was what resonated with people and still does today: the burger’s clearly the hero but the whole package is what makes the brand.

Is it possible the brand could become just “5 Napkin” to reflect the breadth of your menu?
Yes. It’s definitely a possibility as we evolve. For our latest opening, at Ridgehill in Yonkers, we are using the name 5 Napkin. We’re interested to see how it affects the menu mix and people’s ordering. We’ve been open only a few weeks so it’s a limited data size, but I think potentially [the name 5 Napkin] will help guide people’s perception and give us credit for all the things we do so well. Sometimes we don’t get credit for the amount of work and care and love we give to all the items that are part of this package. Click here to continue reading 5 Napkin: An American Burger Brasserie

Jack Shifting From LTOs to Core Menu

The headline Jack in the Box Chairman-CEO Lenny Comma offered during Thursday’s Q3 earnings call was insightful but too long to use: “So the headline is, ‘LTOs drove [Jack’s] success in the past; in the future, core menu items should drive sales with LTOs as the gravy.’”

Jack’s Q3 numbers were impressive: a 5.5% jump in same-store sales at company units and a 7.9% rise at franchised, yielding a 7.3% systemwide increase. Growth at both its Jack in the Box and Qdoba brands brought a 17% increase in operating earnings.

Jack in the Box's Black Pepper Cheeseburger

Jack in the Box’s Black Pepper Cheeseburger

Increased sales at breakfast—now 23% of total revenues—and late night (now 16%) helped drive prices. Two LTOs—a Black Pepper Cheeseburger and Steak & Egg Breakfast Burrito—did well, but as Comma’s suggested headline indicates, the brand is changing its menu thinking. Jack has introduced comparatively few new products this year, he said, choosing instead to focus more on core products, including the Buttery Jack burger line added in January. Advertising, too, has shifted, focusing more on food, which “sometimes played second fiddle to Jack’s personality” in the past, Comma said.

Those strategic shifts were the result of customer feedback that the company has discussed previously. It isn’t finished with changes, however: Jack in the box will “aggressively change” its whole core burger lineup (including the Sourdough Jack and Jumbo Jack) in early 2016. It also is exploring “new ways to use media bring attention to the brand,” he said.

The Black Pepper Cheeseburger came out at $4.39 and Comma reaffirmed his determination to not offer “low-price items and freebies.” In answer to an analyst’s question, he said that because always has had 24-hour breakfast, it has seen no impact in San Diego from McDonald’s all-day breakfast test. But said later that “if McDonald’s figures out its positioning, that would have an impact on the entire industry.” But Jack’s upscale premium-tier rather than value-focused position would minimize that impact, Comma said.

McDonald’s Expands UK Table Service Test

McDonald’s is offering table service in one Manchester restaurant, will offer it soon in 11 more restaurants and could roll it out across its 1,250 UK locations if the service style is well received, The Guardian reports.

“We have listened to customer feedback and to meet their evolving expectations we are significantly investing in our restaurants to create an exciting new environment and improve the customer experience,” UK Managing Director Paul Pomroy told the newspaper. “We also plan to test some new ideas. For example, we know that for parents it can be tough juggling the kids and carrying your food, so we have decided to trial table service, whereby customers place their order via our new kiosks and then have their food brought to them.

Create Your Taste delivery

Table service is part of the Create Your Taste experience in Australia.

“It’s an idea that has been successfully launched in France, and we are keen to see if it will prove as popular with our customers in the UK,” Pomroy added

The paper says McDonald’s is in the midst of an estimated  £350 million store-improvement program. “This includes providing Apple iPads and Samsung Galaxy tablets that children can play with, installing digital kiosks where customers can make orders and building glass shopfronts on McDonald’s restaurants.”

But the chain seems keen to add upscale service. McDonald’s Corp. “This is where McDonald’s is headed,” CEO Steve Easterbrook said in March at its Frankfurt Airport location, where diners can order and get food at a counter or order from a kiosk and have it brought out to them. In Australia, food is brought to diners who construct a Create Your Taste customized burger. Click here to continue reading McDonald’s Expands UK Table Service Test