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 Juicy Lucy Sliders with Wisconsin Provolone and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto shown below!


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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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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.



Burger of the Month Specials for March 2015

Wow. How many different ways can you make a corned-beef-topped burger for St. Patrick’s Day? The answer: A lot. More than a dozen burger bars are tying their March Burger of the Month specials to the upcoming everybody’s-Irish holiday.

Burgerhaus's Then Dubliner

Burgerhaus’s The Dubliner

Many of them are inventive or at least attempts to source quality ingredients. One example is The Dubliner, the March Burger of the Month special at Burgerhaus in Indianapolis. The build starts with a custom-ground beef burger patty from Davis Creek Meats and adds roasted sliced potatoes & tomatoes, locally-sourced jowl bacon from Smoking Goose, imported Dubliner cheese, smoky Guinness-reduction sauce, Irish pickled cabbage and scallions, all on a pretzel roll and served with onion rings. Rockin’. Also check out The Lucky Leprechaun Burger at Flip Side in Hudson, Ohio. It’s A 7-oz. grass-fed Ohio-beef burger with house-made corned beef, braised cabbage, Irish Cheddar cheese, Guinness Horseradish mustard sauce, topped with crispy potato.

The Lucky Irish Burger that’s this month’ special at Romers Burger Bar in Vancouver, B.C., is no slouch either. It starts with an organic beef patty flavored with Guinness and whole-grain mustard. It’s seared to perfection and topped with Irish Ham steamed in beer; with melted Dubliner cheese; green apple matchsticks; green onions and whole- grain mustard vinaigrette. This all sits on a brioche bun slathered with Guinness aïoli, wild baby arugula and Vine ripened tomatoes.

Burger-joint operators love to go their own ways, which is usually away from the holiday crowds. Among the burger bars that opted to ignore St. Paddy’s is the 5 Napkin chain, which is offering a good-looking Pimento Burger made with pimento cheese, grilled onion, bacon and jalapeňos. BRGR Bar Seattle is going for heat with an Oaxaca burger (a beef patty topped with pepper-Jack cheese, roasted poblano pepper, pico de gallo and guacamole).

Several places are trying Korean-influenced burgers. One is BGR: The Burger Joint chain’s Korean BBQ Burger (kimchi, cilantro and sriracha and its Prime dry-aged burger, with Korean BBQ underneath). Philly’s PYT’s latest is the Fauxrean Burger: a Korean BBQ marinated beef patty topped with crispy fried kimchi and spicy kalbi sauce.

Finally, I can’t ignore The Sadistic Magician (aka The Papa Shango) from those loose canons at Grill ‘em All in Alhambra, Calif. We’ve all seen a lot of foods pressed into service as burger buns, but using blueberry pancakes as buns is a first for me. Check it out on the list of all March Burger of the Month Specials.

A&B Burgers Reluctantly Making Its Move

A&B Burgers opened in December 2013 in what seemed an ideal space: the 183-year-old Old Salem Jail in Salem, Mass. In May, just five months in, owners Tom Holland and Amy Butler changed it from counter service to full service. Then, last month, it announced it will pack up and move to neighboring Beverly, Mass., this summer. Some locals weren’t happy, making the decision even tougher. BurgerBusiness.com spoke with Holland about the tipping points.

What’s happened since we last spoke? What made you decide to move?
When we signed the deal here we assumed the final two years of a lease. Then we negotiated a purchase of the building. We put a down payment on it and all. But we put in an opt-out-free clause that as long as we notified them by October we wouldn’t be staying we could get the down payment back and go at the end of the lease. We asked for a time extension and they said fine. The owners have been great.

Being in the historic Salem Jail building sounded like a slam dunk great location.

Being in the historic Salem Jail building sounded like a slam dunk great location.

What were the problems that you convinced to move not buy?
The biggest drawback is that our location is a little out of the downtown area. We’re on the edge of it. And though we’re only one block away from a 300-space municipal parking lot, we had the reputation of having no parking. People would come to the lot but turn the other way. Because of our location they wouldn’t come toward us.

We have five parking spaces out back. For deliveries there’s a driveway to our location that’s an easement. From the beginning we’ve been talking to the city about taking about half the green space [adjacent to the lot] and creating a 13-space municipal lot. We had support but we couldn’t get everybody on the same page by the deadline. Without a guarantee it would go through we just couldn’t invest nearly a million dollars in the building.

We’re very successful in terms of customer traffic. We’ve done well in creating a brand and building a loyal following that we’re very grateful for. But it’s just not enough to support the business without that extra walk-by traffic. We’re missing that “ Oh, there’s A&B Burgers. Let’s go have a burger or a beer before we finish shopping” traffic. Click here to continue reading A&B Burgers Reluctantly Making Its Move

Restaurant Count Shrinks; Burgers Keep Growing

The total number of U.S. restaurants has declined but the quick-service burger segment continues to eke out growth, according to data from The NPD Group’s ReCount research.

Growth of fast-casual burger chains such as Burger 21 keeps the segment expanding.

Growth of fast-casual burger chains such as Burger 21 keeps the segment expanding.

As of Sept. 30, 2014, there were 630,964 restaurants of all types in the U.S., down 0.7% from the Spring 2014 survey and down about 1% from a year ago. Chain restaurants showed positive growth, increasing 1.1% since Spring 2014 and 1% compared with a year earlier.

“The decline in the total U.S. restaurant count is a reflection of the flat [customer] traffic growth experienced by the foodservice industry in 2014,” according to NPD.

Independent restaurants have not fared as well, falling 2.2% since Spring 2014 to 343,653 total locations now. Over the past year the decline also has been 2.2%. NPD reports that the independent segment was especially hurt by a 3% drop in the number of full-service restaurants (including casual dining, midscale/family dining, and fine dining). Quick-service and fast-casual independents showed no growth.

But all quick-service/fast-casual restaurants taken as a group (both chain and independent) showed a year-over-year increase of 1%. Fast-casual concepts were responsible for most of the gain. “Visits to quick-service restaurants, which represent 79% of total industry traffic, were up 1%, while full-service restaurant traffic, representing 21% of total visits, was down 2% last year,” NPD reports.

But the number of quick-service and fast-casual burger restaurants (both chain and independent) continues to grow, rising 0.8% since Spring 2014 and 0.7% over the past year.

US RestaurantCount 2015

A Cautious Menu For Change

Later this week, McDonald’s will introduce new items to its menu in Australia. The makeup of these items reflect the careful, new-but-not-innovative thinking the chain is applying globally as it spends 2015 seating new management and trying to reverse its sales slide and once again post positive sales growth.

The Chicken Bacon Deluxe returns in Australia. New, but not really.

The Chicken Bacon Deluxe returns in Australia. New, but not really.

The centerpiece of the new Aussie menu, according to sources, will be the return of the Chicken Bacon Deluxe. Dropped from the menu there during a purge of upscale items in April 2013, the sandwich is simply the standard crispy or grilled chicken patties with bacon, tomato, Swiss cheese and mayo. That gives it two currently important elements: proven popularity (it came back as an LTO in March 2014 as well) and ingredients already on hand (i.e. kitchen efficient).

Two other chicken sandwiches will join the Aussie menu this week, and both follow the new-but-not-different path. A Spicy Chicken Jalapeňo burger and a Southwest Chicken BLT will arrive, neither needing any new SKUs. Nor will the new chicken, bacon and egg tortilla rollups coming to the breakfast menu.

What innovation looks like: Waffle with chocolate at The Corner prototype.

What innovation looks like: Waffle with chocolate at The Corner prototype.

Under McDonald’s newfound desire to keep the menu lean, when something comes, something goes. Three chicken items leaving the menu are the McChamp (notable for a one-two sauce punch of mayo and tangy relish), the McGrilled and the Chicken & Honey Soy McWraps (chicken lettuce, crunchy noodles, honey soy sauce and aïoli).

McDonald’s tipped its intention to pursue a similarly restrained menu here when it recently began testing a Jalapeňo McChicken, which is nothing more than the jalapeňos from the Jalapeňo Double plopped onto the McChicken. Voila! A new-but-not-innovative item. Even if McDonald’s does finally offer its 1955 Burger here this year, it won’t violate the new strictures: It’s simply a quarter-pound patty with barbecue sauce, lettuce, tomato and caramelized onion, all of which we’ve seen before in various combinations. Marketing noise likely will come from small discounts of the “2 for” variety and from new McFlurry add-ins rather than splashy, truly new menu additions.

McDonald’s USA execs should note, however, that the Australian operation hasn’t completely ruled out innovation. At its The Corner café prototype in test, the latest menu item was waffles drizzled with chocolate. They reportedly did well.

Twitterers Slam Honest Burgers IP Fight

A intellectual-property infringement complaint by London’s Honest Burgers chain against pop-up pizza purveyor Honest Crust has brought the burger chain an unexpectedly negative storm of social-media criticism from people casting it as a corporate bully.

Honest Burger's open letter; click to open larger version.

Honest Burgers’ open letter; click to open larger version.

Many tweets have been like this from @Nickajking: “Seems like overkill. The similarities are limited to a single word. Gives me a really negative perception of @honestburgers.”

That stings for partners Dorian Waite, Tom Barton and Phil Eles. It was only four years ago that they were struggling to get together the £7,500 needed to open their first burger bar in the Brixton district of South London. The concept now has nine locations around London and plans for five more this year, thanks to a recently secured £7 million capital infusion from Active Private Investment. But suddenly the well-reviewed brand has been tarnished.

Said @hairingtons: “Didn’t invent the word ‘honest’. Or ‘burger’. Or even the actual burger. So no, it’s not your ‘IP’.

Honest Burgers’ founders have been chastened enough to post an open letter to the haters and those who simply don’t understand trademark law: “Some pretty punchy tweets going against us here tonight which has been really painful to read. 140 characters isn’t really enough to explain ourselves so thought we’d write this in an open letter,” it begins.

Later they explain that “The issue is that, in light of people who have tried to rip us off in the UK and abroad, we had to take steps to protect ourselves by spending a lot of money on the intellectual property rights for the word ‘Honest’ in any restaurant concept. We’re trying to build something really special after all.”

“The simple fact is this_if we don’t defend our IP [intellectual property], we risk losing it, which means open season for everyone and anyone. Those just the rules.”

Twitter battles usually are unwinnable since so many users simply want to gripe and slander. But Honest Burgers is pressing on with its IP stance for now and hoping to win back critics.

McDonald’s at the Crossroads. Again.

On Sunday (March 1), Don Thompson officially steps down as president and CEO of McDonald’s Corp. after two-and-half years. Steve Easterbrook, previously corporate senior executive vice president and global chief brand officer, takes over and mercifully gets to shorten his title.

McDonald's is leaking customers, not just dollars.

McDonald’s is leaking customers, not just dollars.

The 10-K annual report McDonald’s Corp. filed with the SEC this week gives a glimpse into some of the challenges that await Easterbrook et al. McDonald’s is losing sales, customers and market share globally. The filing offers few new insights into how it intends to reverse its precarious position.

  • Company-operated stores sales were $18.169 billion in 2014, the lowest since 2010. A reduced number of company stores accounts for some of that but only a little: the 6,714 company stores are year-end were only 24 lower than a year ago.
  • Franchised-store sales in 2014 were $69.617 billion (lowest since 2011).
  • Total U.S. sales were $35.447 billion, down 1.1% from last year. The company employs 420,000 people worldwide, roughly double the global workforce of General Motors.

    Will bringing back Chicken Selects Tenders boost sales?

    Will bringing back Chicken Selects Tenders boost sales?

  • Oddly, McDonald’s Corp. always had tucked away sales results for Canada, the Caribbean and Central and South America under “Other Countries & Corporate” on its ledger. It’s especially odd now because this mystery category actually saw sales increase by 6.6%. Traffic was down just 1.5%. Why not talk it up?
  • Global systemwide sales (company and franchised) were $87.786 billion, down 2%.
  • But the sales slide may not be the worst problem. Globally, McDonald’s saw guest counts decline 3.6% (compared with a 1% decline in comp sales). It’s leaking customers more than dollars.
  • Customer loss in the U.S. was most dire, with 4.1% transactions in 2014 than in 2013. In Europe, by comparison, customer traffic declined 2.2%.
  • Customers have left despite the company’s unmatched marketing strength. Corporate contributions to its advertising cooperatives totaled $808.2 million, plus an additional $98.7 million to cover production costs. These numbers, only slightly higher than in 2013, include costs related to McDonald’s Olympic sponsorship.
    Click here to continue reading McDonald’s at the Crossroads. Again.