Wendy’s this year will introduce nationally the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger that it has tested in a few markets, according to Janney Montgomery Scott Analyst Mark Kalinowski. The premium, pretzel-bun burger has enough upward sales potential that Kalinowski upgraded The Wendy’s Co. to Buy.
“We do not know exactly when this product will go national; Wendy’s confirms ‘it will be part of our 2013 promotional calendar.’ Our best guess is for a Q3 launch, and as such, we raise our Q3 same-store sales forecasts for both North American company-owned and North American franchised outlets by three percentage points, to +5.0%,” Kalinowski wrote in a report today.
Kalinowski says people with whom he has spoken say the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger performed as well during in-store market testing as “any Wendy’s test items from the last 20 years.”
Last June, Wendy’s culinary team said it was considering a pretzel roll for a Pub Club sandwich it was looking at. In January the chain began testing the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger in Miami. The dense pretzel bun is the primary difference between this and other premium burgers on Wendy’s menu.
But Wendy’s executives have said the chain intends to grow its share of the QSR business’s premium-price-burger category. Citing NPD/CREST data, Wendy’s has claimed an 18% share of that premium niche. Wendy’s share was already set to rise thanks to McDonald’s decision to drop its Angus Third Pounder line.
Wendy’s has introduced premium products Son of Baconator and Bacon Portabella Melt in the past several months. The Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger is in line with CEO Emil Brolick’s plan to succeed by “playing a different game.” This means not only adding innovative products but also providing fast-casual-level quality at QSR pricing.
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers is about to learn how high it can price a burger before it loses customer acceptance. Next week the chain will begin in-store testing of new “premium” burgers in a select few restaurants near its Greenwood Village, Colo., headquarters. The company won’t say at what price it will begin gauging customer sensitivity but it will be above its current $11 ceiling on burgers.
The 5 Alarm Burger is Red Robin’s current LTO.
The premium line—which SVP-CMO Denny Marie Post said is intended to be permanent and not an LTO—balances the Tavern Double, introduced last year at a low entry price of $6.99.
Additionally, a new summer menu that arrives at Red Robin on June 3 will include “an innovative and mouthwatering new burger, a new Tavern Double style and from the bar, some first-to-market cocktails and other refreshing beverages that you’ll only find at Red Robin,” CEO Steve Carley told analysts during this week’s first-quarter earnings call. This new burger is not expected to be either Honey Mustard Chicken Burger or the Santa Fe Burger, two former LTOs that the chain has pledged to return to the menu as a result of its “Bring My Burger Back” promotion last year. The currently featured 5 Alarm Burger was thee winner of that promotion.
Carley also said that three of a new mid-size, 4,000-square-foot Red Robin restaurant prototype have opened. “The smaller units have a number of advantages, including greater flexibility in site selection as we expand with a much lower construction cost while still providing operating capacity for very healthy volumes,” Carley said. Of the 20 new company units opening this year, seven will be mid-size locations.
A rebounding economy is making Red Robin’s expansion of its Burger Works fast-casual concept more difficult than expected because of competition for good sites. “One of the things we’re learning in the real estate market, which is no news to those guys who also cover fast casual, is this 2,000-, 2,200-square-foot box in a great trade area as an end cap is the hottest piece of real estate in the country right now,” Carley said. “Everybody wants that exact piece. We find that we’re somewhere between 6 and 10 folks talking to a landlord on that particular piece of property. And so going after those is a little more problematic.”
What connects the dots of Burger King’s new summer menu is barbecue sauce. Its new Rib Sandwich is a “juicy boneless rib patty with a sweet and tangy BBQ sauce served with sweet pickles on a warm toasted artisan-style bun.” Barbecue sauce is on the menu’s Carolina Whopper, Memphis Pulled Pork and new BBQ Chicken Salad as well.
Source: Mintel Menu Insights
And it’s not just Burger King that has embraced barbecue sauce as a burger condiment: it has become a standard topping choice at many chains at independents. I’ll go so far as to say that barbecue sauce has supplanted salsa as the No. 3 burger sauce (after ketchup and mustard). It was in 2006 that a researcher declared that salsa had passed ketchup as top condiment (leading Jay Leno to quip, “You know it’s bad when even our vegetables are starting to lose their jobs to Mexico.”) I think ketchup and mustard still reign with burgers, and I don’t think barbecue sauce wasn’t on the list of condiments for that research.
At the request of BurgerBusiness.com, researcher Mintel searched its Menu Insights database to determine the number of dishes that included barbecue sauce as an ingredient (including a burger topping) over the past five years. They looked at quick-service, fast-casual and casual dining restaurants and found a striking 34% increase in barbecue sauce use just since 2009. It should be noted that the numbers come the first quarter of each of the years. Since January and February aren’t the biggest barbecue months, use of barbecue sauce on menus may actually have accelerated even more.
Blanc Burgers + Bottles’ Dark Truth BBQ Burger
Occasionally, burger joints will use a branded barbecue sauce as Hook Burger in Oxnard, Calif., does with its Hickory Burger (topped with thick-cut bacon, Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce, house-made crispy onions, lettuce, tomato and mayo). But Mintel found that of the 975 dishes using barbecue sauce in Q1 2013, only 62—or 6.4%—were branded sauces. Most were unnamed or perhaps house-made like the barbecue sauce that Blanc Burgers + Bottles in Kansas City, Mo., makes in-house using local brewer Boulevard Brewing Co.’s Dark Truth Stout. That sauce goes on Blanc’s Dark Truth BBQ Burger, which also is topped with smoked Gouda, applewood-smoked bacon, onion ring, mayo and onion, all on a brioche bun.
A BurgerBusiness.com compilation of “15 Great BBQ Burger Builds” from burger joints around the country can be seen here.
In addition to developing barbecues-sauce topped burgers here, Burger King and McDonald’s have been actively exporting the idea globally. For example, there’s the new BBQ Classic at Burger King in Japan now. There’s also barbecue sauce on the Steakhouse burger that Burger King is selling in the UK, on its X-Tra Long Spring BBQ burger in Germany, on the Grilled Chicken Barbecue it’s currently menuing in The Netherlands and on the BBQ Bandit offered at Burger King in New Zealand.
American-style barbecue sauce is key to the 1955 Burger (named for the year Ray Kroc’s first restaurant opened) that McDonald’s has been selling in Europe for several years. New barbecue burgers are arriving as well. One is the the new Louisiana BBQ Burger (a beef patty with bacon, barbecue sauce, slivered onions, shredded lettuce and cheese on a cheese-topped bun) that is part of McDonald’s “Great Tastes of America” promotion going on now in the UK. In Denmark it’s offering a Grilled Beef Barbecue burger and it has a new “Grill & BBQ” menu in Austria. Soon burgers with barbecue sauce could become a true global mainstay.
Saturday’s burger is the Bell Beefer, aka Doritos Bell Beefer. That’s a 5-oz. beef patty with taco seasoning and a Doritos crust topped with shredded Cheddar, lettuce, pico de gallo, ranch dressing and Tapatío hot sauce on a burger bun.
“Burger Week” promotions have become marketing staples for a lot of burger joints. Sometimes they’re part of citywide celebrations; often they’re independent, as is the case with the weeklong burger promo upcoming at The Oinkster in Los Angeles. Their event—the third annual—is so well put together that it merits attention as a case study from which others can learn.
Beginning June 3, 2013, The Oinkster will feature a different burger creation from Chef Andre Guerrero and the staff on each of the event’s seven days. Nothing so unusual there except that they’re kicking it off with their own version of Wendy’s Baconator and closing the week with a re-imagining of McDonald’s McRib. They had me at The Oinkonator, which is two 3-oz. square beef patties topped with American cheese, six strips of bacon, ketchup and mayo on a kaiser bun.
Their McRib redo—which anchors the menu on Sunday, June 9—is called The McRibster (a name McDonald’s actually used last year in Austria). The Oinkster’s version has baby back ribs topped with BBQ sauce, pickles and onions on a French roll.
On Thursday, the guys from Grill ‘em All in Alhambra, Calif., will be at The Oinkster serving their legendary Weedeater burger.
A few weeks back, BurgerBusiness.com featured an interview with Ryan Harkins and Matt Chernus, operators of food-truck-turned-restaurant Grill ’em All in Alhambra, Calif. One of the great things about The Oinkster’s event is that they are smart and cool enough to invite Ryan and Matt to take over the Oinkster Burger Week kitchen on Thursday, June 6. Ryan and Matt will be cooking and serving one of the legendary builds from their trucker days, TheWeedeater. That’s a half-pound beef patty with jalapeňo bacon, Cheddar, Funyuns, garlic aïoli and seared pulled pork in Mosh Pit BBQ sauce.
Click here for the details on the remaining daily burger creations planned for the Week.
But there’s more. During last year’s Burger Week, The Oinkster promised to honor as a BurgerLord anyone who could eat each of the seven featured burgers and 180 met the challenge. Those who do the same this year will receive an exclusive BurgerLord t-shirt as well as the world’s admiration. See how the rules and regulations are set here.
No promotion is complete these days without a social-media component and The Oinkster has that covered, too. Beginning May 28, the restaurant will conduct a Scavenger Hunt with clues available through Twitter and Instagram. The hunt’s three winners will earn VIP passes that put them at the front of the line for each day’s special burger. If you think your joint’s Burger Week is more fun than all that, well I’d like to hear about it.
The lineup at Urban Stack Burger Lounge, Chattanooga, Tenn.
That American Craft Beer Week (May 13-19) falls within National Burger Month is only fitting: the synergy between craft beers and craft burgers has helped both these businesses grow rapidly in the past decade. In his BurgerBusiness.com interview earlier this week, Slater’s 50/50 Co-founder Scott Slater said, “I attribute much of my success to craft beers. Four years ago, craft beer was just starting, as were better burgers.” The two have grown up together.
The Brewers Association estimates that craft beer sales totaled $10.2 billion in 2012, up from $8.7 billion in 2011. Researcher Mintel puts 2012 sales at $12 billion, double the $5.7 billion it estimates in 2007. And Mintel forecasts continued growth, expecting craft-beer sales to total $18 billion 2017.
The fastest growing segment? Hard cider, which Technomic says grew by 31.3% in 2011.
Milwaukee Burger Company
Even if craft beers’ contribution to restaurants and taverns is just the 54% of beer sales that the Beer Institute says go to on-premise accounts, that’s $5.7 billion in 2012 coming from craft beers at a time when restaurant customer traffic is flat. The overall U.S. beer market grew by 1% in 2012, the Beer Institute estimates. The beer industry relied on craft beers for growth the same way the restaurant industry needed breakfast gains to offset flat sales later in the day.
Bareburger, New York City
The largest craft breweries? The Brewers Association top 50 list begins with Boston Beer Co., Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., New Belgium Brewing Co, The Gambrinus Co. (Shiner and Bridgeport) and Deschutes Brewery. Tellingly, these five are in five different states. California leads with 268 craft breweries; Washington is next with 136. In total 2,347 craft breweries operated for at least part of 2012, comprised of 1,132 brewpubs, 1,118 microbreweries and 97 regional craft breweries.
Who’s drinking craft beers? Your youngest legal-age drinkers. Mintel says craft beers find favor with 49% of Millennials, 40% of GenX, 29% of baby boomers and 22% of the WWII generation. Millennials are also more likely to prefer a domestic craft beer over an import that are GenXers 10 years their senior. Taste shift quickly.
Have a chalkboard or table tents? Mintel says 45% of craft-beer drinkers say they would try more craft beers if they knew more about them.
Still haven’t crafted a craft-beer menu? It’s never too late and Technomic’s Christine LaFave Grace offers six good pointers on the researcher’s site.
The Hungarian version, with grilled pork.
McDonald’s new Premium McWrap is more than a new menu item, it is, in restaurant parlance, a new “platform,” meaning different varieties can be added. Part of its appeal is that almost anything can be rolled in a flour tortilla and added as a McWrap LTO without requiring major crew retraining. The first three varieties are Chicken Ranch, Sweet Chili Chicken and Chicken Ranch. What will it try next?
In Canada, where the product is branded Signature McWrap, the initial line includes a Fiesta Chicken wrap with grilled or crispy chicken, shredded cheese, lettuce, tri-color tortilla strips, tomato salsa and mayo.
In Belgium, Tzatziki McWrap is chicken.
But if McDonald’s really wants to keep to its stated intention of importing global flavors, it could try the Tzatziki McWrap. Interestingly, McDonald’s this month has begun offering three different versions of the product, all featuring the Greek-style yogurt sauce.
In Hungary the Tzatziki McWrap has grilled pork, “Mediterranean cheese,” red onion and bell pepper with tzatziki. In Sweden the Tzatziki McWrap is seasoned ground beef, lettuce, fresh cucumber, red onion rings, cheese and tzatziki. Want it in chicken? The version now offered at McDonald’s in Belgium wraps crispy chicken, tomato, cucumber, lettuce, fried onion and tzatziki in the tortilla. Any of these could work.
There’s no indication McDonald’s has plans to bring the Tzatziki McWrap to the U.S., but there’s also no reason it couldn’t or shouldn’t. McDonald’s likes Mediterranean flavors. In July it offered a Mediterranean Chicken Snack Wrap with feta cheese in Canada. It also has tried Thai Shrimp and Chili Beef McWraps in Austria and an Omelette Wrap in Germany. After all, what good is a platform if you can’t try new things?
Slater’s 50/50 has been upfront about being over-the-top since Scott Slater and Chef Brad Lyons opened the first in Anaheim Hills, Calif., in 2009. Known for its 50/50 burger patty made from equal parts ground beef and ground bacon and for its 100 beer taps, Slater’s 50/50 is nationally recognized for its creative Burgers of the Month. April’s selection was the $13.95 Resurrection Lamb Burger, a patty of ground lamb mixed with ground beef topped with a spread of goat cheese and candied pecans, light-amber honey, baby greens and sliced Granny Smith apples. A sixth Slater’s 50/50 opens next month in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. BurgerBusiness.com spoke with Co-founder Scott Slater about his concept.
So what bar were you in when you had the epiphany that a 50/50 beef/bacon burger would work?
Actually I was tailgating at a San Diego Chargers game and the conversation was about bacon being the best thing you can put on your tongue. I was a little hung-over, and what’s better when you’re hung-over than bacon and a burger? When you’re tailgating, it’s early in the morning but you’ve got a grill so I asked a butcher to make up 50/50 bacon/burger patties.
Slater’s 50/50′s current Burger of the Month, The Buffalo Buffalo Burger.
This was before the first Slater’s?
Oh yeah. That was in college.
So you carried around this wild idea for a while. And then you had another crazy idea: Get into the competitive burger restaurant business.
That was four years ago. The “better burger” business as we know it now was just coming together. The Counter was still new. I wanted an idea that wouldn’t go out of style and burgers, bacon and beer will always be popular.
But really there’s always been “better burgers.” Before me the Islands, Red Robins and Ruby’s Diners were the better burgers. The restaurant business always tries to continuously do things better. I consider Slater’s to be part of a new generation of burger concepts with better food, better service and better techniques that are coming through. In 10 years there’ll be another revolution probably and I’ll want to be part of it.
Right now we’re just trying to take burgers, bacon and beer to the next level and I’m good with that.
Slater’s has earned notoriety for out-there burgers. There’s your B’ B’ B’ Bacon Burger that’s 100% ground bacon, the Peanut Butter and Jellousy Burger and others. Did you strive to be ahead of the curve from the start?
As a consumer, when I go out to eat I’ll look for the most cockamamie thing on the menu and order it. One, I’m curious, but also if a chef is going to put something really daring on the menu, I figure it’s going to be really good or he wouldn’t dare do it. That’s the mindset for Slater’s 50/50.
We’re creating new burgers every month. Brad Lyons and I are trying po’boys, elk burgers, Filipino pork bellies, whatever we can get hold of. We’re always looking for ideas. Click here to continue reading Slater’s 50/50: 100% Ready for Growth
Burger King this week will announce new summer menu LTOs that include the returns of the Carolina BBQ Whopper/Chicken and Memphis Pulled Pork sandwiches. But there will be one audacious difference: The menu includes a boneless BK Rib Sandwich that can be seen as an answer to rival McDonald’s popular McRib.
Memphis BBQ Pulled Pork and Sweet Potato Fries will be among items returning to Burger King’s menu. They’ll bring a new Rib Sandwich along with them.
Sweet Potato Fries also return from last year’s first “Summer Menu,” and chain sources say Burger King will introduce a BBQ Salad with chicken that is a new product. The Texas BBQ Whopper/Chicken sandwiches from last summer’s menu were not asked back this year. A Burger King spokesperson would not comment on the summer LTO lineup.
McRib first appeared on the McDonald’s menu as a limited-time offer in 1981. It was offered in the U.S. back in December. Since its creation, it has reappeared irregularly while building a very loyal fan base (see @McRibWatch on Twitter) that clamors for it to be offered permanently. Its popularity is global. McDonald’s stores in Austria last year introduced a deep-fried-patty version called McRibster. And Australian consumers cheered when the Atlanta Pork McRib arrived there last summer as part of a special Summer Olympics menu.
During those 32 years, no other QSR has developed a serious competitor for McRib. In May 2010, Burger King rolled out Fire-Grilled Ribs, bone-in ribs with barbecue sauce. Despite a steep price—an 8-piece meal was $9 or more in some markets—the product sold well, according to the chain. It has not been repeated, however. But Burger King, with its open-flame grills, is well positioned to create a boneless BBQ rib product that could give McRib some competition. Details of Burger King’s summer menu will be released later this week.
As BurgerBusiness.com reported last week, McDonald’s has removed its Angus Third Pounders. As this site also reported, new Quarter Pounder burgers will fill the void. In an exclusive interview with BurgerBusiness.com today, Greg Watson, SVP of McDonald’s USA’s Menu Innovation Team, detailed the plan, which involves converting two of the 5.33-oz.-patty Angus builds to 4-oz.-patty Quarter Pounders while also creating a new third QP (the Habanero Ranch). All three of the new Quarter Pounders were tested last fall in California. McDonald’s also is introducing a new thick-cut bacon for these and other items. An edited transcript of the conversation follows:
Can you explain the company’s thinking in removing Angus Third Pounders?
Greg Watson: Really, this is about the Quarter Pounder brand. We are bringing news to our core menu items and this is one of them. We think we have a way to bring great burger news to a brand that has been around for over 40 years [introduced nationally in 1972].
Two of the new Quarter Pounders are Angus builds. The third (in front) is the Habanero Ranch, a new Quarter Pounder flavor.
That’s why we’re taking some of the more popular recipes from the Angus line and bringing them over under the Quarter Pounder brand. That’s why we’re taking Angus out of the restaurants.
There were three Angus varieties. Will there be three new Quarter Pounder recipes?
There will be three new Quarter Pounder varieties but with a bit of a difference. We’re going to take most popular builds from the Angus line—the Deluxe [American cheese, tomato, fresh leaf lettuce, red onion, crinkle-cut pickles, mayo and mustard] and the Bacon & Cheese [American cheese, bacon, red onion, crinkle-cut pickles, ketchup and mustard]—and put them on the Quarter Pounder brand. We’ll create a third, new flavor—Habanero Ranch [with white Cheddar, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and habanero ranch sauce when tested]—that will round out the entire Quarter Pounder line. The three new flavors will be served on bakery-style buns.
McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson speaks often of your global pantry of menu ideas that travel well from market to market. Why not import totally new menu ideas to the American menu rather than enhance an existing core product?
We are leveraging our global pipeline quite a bit. Thus the successful introduction of the Premium McWrap that is in restaurants now. What we’re finding with the Quarter Pounder is that there already is a great love for the brand and this is a relatively easy way for us to bring more customers to it.
Are the new Quarter Pounders permanent menu items or limited-time only (LTO) offers?
These will all be permanent additions.
When was the last time McDonald’s added a new Quarter Pounder?
That’s just the point. We haven’t touched the Quarter Pounder since its inception 40 years ago. We think this is a great way to bring new news to the brand.
Greg Watson, McDonald’s USA SVP-Menu Innovation Team
How soon will the new Quarter Pounders be on the menu?
They will show up in late May or early June. I want to add that we are bringing a great new bacon into our restaurants. It’s new thick-cut, applewood-smoked bacon that will be on a couple of the Quarter Pounder builds [Bacon & Cheese and Habanero Ranch], which makes for a great eating experience.
This thick-cut bacon is not currently used on any item?
No, it’s not. It’s rolling into our restaurants any day now.
Will it appear on other products as well, such as breakfast and entrées?
It will be added to all our items that currently have bacon.
How much was the decision to enhance Quarter Pounders at the expense of Angus burgers based on a need to have more mid-price menu items?
Price really wasn’t a factor in the decision. We believe that we have a hit on our hands by taking this great Quarter Pounder icon and bringing news to it. And let me emphasize that we are not touching the original Quarter Pounder and Quarter Pounder with Cheese. They will stay just as they are.
Is this the first time McDonald’s has offered habanero on the menu?
No. We’ve had habanero in LTO dipping sauces. We find that customers really like that flavor profile so we’re bringing it to the menu permanently.
We’ll see national advertising support behind the new Quarter Pounders, I assume.
Yes, advertising will begin in mid June.
You’ve added a number of items in the past year, including McWrap, Egg White Delight, Chicken and Fish McBites and so on. Were you at a point where you thought the menu was getting too large for crew to handle or consumers to choose from?
We have added quite a few items to the menu but we’ve also removed a few items. We’re always making sure we’re doing the best for crew and customers. We know we can’t keep adding things infinitely without also taking things away.
Are there other items on the menu that you expect to remove this year?
There are a few items that we talk about and keep a close eye on. It depends on how they perform. And when we don’t feel we can sustain a quality experience we’ll remove them. It’s hard to identify in advance what those items are.
Might some of those items be on the breakfast menu?
It could be. I won’t say for sure. We’re looking at the entire menu, but I’ll point out that we are swapping out the Wild Berry Smoothie with the introduction of our Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie.
When you’re evaluating potential new menu items, I assume that taste is your top criterion. But how do you rank menu price, ease of execution and nutrition?
It’s a great question and I have to say they’re all important. We look at four key areas when we decide if a product is going to make it to our restaurants. First we want to be sure it’s going to please our customers; that’s certainly a major driver. And value is a part of that: We want customers to say that an item is a good value. We need it to be operationally friendly so that our crews will be able to give our customers a great experience. We also want to make sure we can supply the product: We work with our supply team so we can be sure we can keep the product in stock. Finally we look at the financials. We want to make sure it will be a profitable venture for our operators as well as the company.
It has been more than 40 years since Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins had their perfect season and Super Bowl victory, which means many of the young adults drawn to Shula Burger restaurants have little connection with the Shula name. Now, as the chain prepares for the opening of its first franchised location next month in Delray Beach, Fla., and for the beginning of national expansion, four-unit Shula Burger is anchoring its brand more on food than football.
The burger concept is being more closely aligned with its parent, the 31-unit Shula’s steakhouse chain with which consumers may be familiar. Shula Burger’s website proclaims, “If you love our steaks, you will flip for our burgers.”
“We’re carving out a niche for ourselves as ‘fast casual plus,’” Shula Burger President Scott Nietschmann says. “We’ve taken things we’ve learned from the steakhouses and applied them to fast casual, just with different pricing. With everything we do, we take it a step above what you would normally see in fast casual. We brand our buns to give our burgers a distinctive look. Food is served on plates, salads in bowls; there’s real silverware. Cooks wear chef coats not t-shirts, which shows how serious we are about our food.” Click here to continue reading Shula Burger Sets Its Game Plan
[Update: McDonald's later confirmed what BurgerBusiness.com reported first: Angus Third Pounders are done.]
McDonald’s has opted to drop the Angus Third Pounder burgers from its menu after a four-year run and a three-month deliberation. Rumors that the premium burger line was in danger circulated in February, when McDonald’s eliminated Chicken Selects and an apple-walnut salad. At that time, however, the chain would say only that it was “reviewing options” for Angus Third Pounders. Now its fate is known.
The Angus Third Pounder Bacon & Cheese was McDonald’s first item to have full slices of bacon.
Multiple McDonald’s units confirmed that they have discontinued the Angus line and say it is a national shift. At press time, McDonald’s Corp. had not responded to a request for comment. Several operators told BurgerBusiness.com that the chain intends to expand the core Quarter Pounder line, including a QPC with Bacon.
That McDonald’s chose to pull Angus burgers—which sold for about $4.49 in most markets—in favor of lower-price Quarter Pounders might reflect quick-service restaurant consumers’ price sensitivity. McDonald’s U.S. sales were down 1.2% in the first quarter due to what it called a “challenging eating out environment.” This week it announced that April sales were up just 0.7% in the U.S.
When Angus Third Pounders were introduced nationally at McDonald’s in July 2009 they were the chain’s first new burger since the Big N’ Tasty made its debut in 2001. The Angus burgers were McDonald’s first item to have full slices of bacon and red-onion rings. Southern California franchisee Mike Pernecky had lobbied the chain to add a burger bigger than the Quarter Pounder and he worked with the corporate culinary team to develop the Angus burgers, introduced in Deluxe, Bacon & Cheese and Mushroom & Swiss styles.
In Argentina, McDonald’s Angus line is double-patty burgers.
McDonald’s has tried several variations of the Angus Third Pounder in recent years. In 2011, the third-pound patty was used in the briefly tested English Pub Burger. A year later, McDonald’s tested a Clubhouse Angus with “smoky Dijon” mustard sauce, grilled onions, hickory-smoked bacon, white Cheddar and American cheeses and steak sauce. Last October, the CBO (Cheddar Bacon Onion) rolled out nationally. It had the Angus third-pound patty plus mustard sauce, hickory-smoked bacon, caramelized onion and white Cheddar.
Angus burgers remain popular at McDonald’s in several overseas markets, In Australia, the chain recently removed most of its upscale “M Selections” menu but kept the Grand Angus and Mighty Angus burgers for now. In Argentina, the Angus Premium line is all double-patty burgers.
A Wendy’s “Image Activation” restaurant
Just when Wendy’s thought it was done with its 99¢ Value Menu, like Michael Corleone trying to leave the Mafia it’s being pulled back in.
Wendy’s President CEO Emil Brolick told analysts today that Wendy’s has had to readjust its marketing calendar for the second half of 2013 to give more and continuous support to the bottom end of its menu-price spectrum to balance higher-end products. In January, Wendy’s dropped its “My 99¢ Value Menu” because franchisees weren’t all discounting the same items and didn’t like the slim profits of 99¢ foods. Instead, the chain instituted the new “Right Price, Right Size” menu with six items at 99¢ and eight priced from $1.19 to $1.99.
When ad support for the Right Price, Right Size menu stopped, sales dipped.
In announcing a same-store sales gain of just 1% for company stores and 0.6% for franchised units during 2013’s first quarter, Brolick explained that Wendy’s share of value-hungry 99¢ diners—whom he said account for 20% of QSR customers—by moving away from promoting the “Right Price” menu after its introduction. The new marketing strategy, he said, will be “to put more emphasis upon the pure 99¢ portion” of the new menu. “This core group of 99¢ price shoppers [are] heavy users often of quick-serve restaurants, and you need to continually remind them that you have products available for them every day just because their economic situation necessitates that price point,” Brolick said.
Wendy’s will continue to develop and promote high-end menu items like the recently introduced Flatbread Grilled Chicken sandwiches, Brolick said, but will balance that with a steady stream of value messages and products (including upcoming Frosty Cones).
The chain reaffirmed its goal of reimaging 200 stores this year (compared with 48 in 2012) and having 20% of its system remodeled by 2015. Previous reimagings have been on Tier 1 or flagship stores. Now the program is expanding into Tier 2 and Tier 3 units. Last month the chain opened its first reimaged Tier 2 unit in Columbus, Ohio, and the first Tier 3 remodel in Orem, Utah. Costs for Tier 2 and Tier 3 redos has been “a bit above the target” investment of $550,000 and $375,000, respectively, said Brolick, but the chain has a “line of sight on how to get to those” targets.
A deal with GE Capital that CFO Steve Hare called “an early adopter financing program” will provide credit support for franchisees who want to upgrade their restaurants. Over the next three years, Wendy’s will invest $440 million to $500 million (including $145 million this year) in its Image Activation initiative.
Wander around the burger world during National Burger Month and you encounter some fascinating things that need to be shared. Examples:
Burger-topped Bloody Bombers
→ “Secret menus” are a boring, overdone topic but this one’s interesting: At Atlanta’s Diesel Filling Station, the “Just What the Doctor Ordered” burger is available but isn’t on the menu. It’s named for a doctor from the nearby Centers for Disease Control who drops in regularly and requests his burger topped with pepper-Jack cheese, bacon and fresh jalapeňos. It can be requested as a beef or turkey burger.
→ Considering adding or improving the brunch menu? AJ Bombers locations in Milwaukee and Madison, Wis., feature a Bloody Bomber. That’s a Bloody Mary garnished with lemon, lime, olive, pickle and an AJ Burger strip with Muenster cheese and bacon.
→ Jalapeňos show up everywhere now but not often as dessert. Freakin’ Unbelievable Burgers in Flint, Mich., has created Frozen Jalapeňo Custard, a mix of frozen custard with Cholula hot sauce, diced jalapeňo and house-made cinnamon fried wontons.
→ When your restaurant’s name is Zombie Burger + Drink Lab, as is the case with a Des Moines, Iowa, joint, you can get away with a lot. Even creating something called Dead + Breakfast. That would be a burger patty and a house-made breakfast sausage patty topped with a fried egg and sausage gravy, bacon and American cheese on a biscuit bun. The house recommends pairing it with their Coffee Cake Shake and who’s to argue?
Zombie Burger’s Dead + Breakfast
→ Bookmark the Facebook page for Baldwin Street Burgerin Whitby, Ontario, because every day it features a special that will make you hungry. This one had me until the end: “A side of hand-made potato gnocchi with seared beef in a sautéed mushroom blanquette, fresh herbs and shaved Parmesan cheese. $6 as a combo with a canned soda.” I want to meet the person who would pair that dish with a Diet Dr. Pepper.
A&G’s Croqueta Burger
→ You say you want to bring global-cuisine influences to burgers? One of three new burgers Miami’s A&G Burger Joint has added for Burger Month is the Spanish-influenced Croqueta Burger. That’s an Angus beef patty with bocadito paste, American cheese, house-made ham croquetas and a fried egg on a toasted Cuban bun. Don’t tell me you had that on the menu already.
Crow Burger Kitchen’s Green Label
→ Everyone should pay as much attention and respect to veggies as Victory Burger in Oakland, Calif. The latest burger of the week is topped with grilled organic Chiogga beets, wilted pea sprouts, pickled red onions and an aïoli of fresh herbs. On the side: Fried Pickled Veggies (seasonal vegetables pickled in Southern-style bread-and-butter brine and then fried tempura-style). It’s $10.
→ Big Buns Gourmet Grill in Arlington, Va., is adding a new feature from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.: Build Your Own Breakfast Sandwich. Paired with a cup of organic, fair-trade coffee it’s $5. Smart.
→ Crow Burger Kitchen in Newport Beach, Calif., kicked off Burger Month with its Green Label Burger. That’s a ground-in-house patty of 100% Prime chuck topped with a side-order-sized pile of shoestring potatoes and—wait for it—bacon butter on a buttermilk bun. It’s $13.95 and I’d pay that in a heartbeat.
Flipdaddy’s Mint Julep Burger of the Month
Could there be a better way to acknowledge National Burger Month than to spotlight the remarkable culinary creativity that drives the burger business? Appropriately, the May Burger of the Month specials display a wide variety of influences. There’s Southern cuisine in Bobby Flay’s Pimiento Burger; there are two Mediterranean and one Caribbean burger on the list; Mexican ingredients appear in several burgers; one features North African Merguez spices. Cheese choices include Gruyère, white Cheddar, Brie, cotija, feta queso fresca and more.
Among the trend-forward burgers are Flipdaddy’s Mint Julep, a beef patty that’s a blend of brisket, short rib and chuck and that’s steeped in an ale reduction before grilling. Craft beers can be ingredients, too. Note, too, the liberal use of pepper-Jack cheese as spicy burgers gain popularity. For its burger, Freakin’ Unbelievable Burgers tries out habanero cream cheese while A&G Burger Joint concocts a Scotch bonnet mango salsa and jalapeño cream sauce for its Caribbean burger. Teddy’s Bigger Burgers in Hawaii grills green chiles to pair with pepper-jack on its Fiesta burger.
As always, there are great ideas here:
5 Star Burgers, multiple locations, Southwest
A&G Burger Joint’s Gladiator Burger has three half-pound burger patties.
The Mediterranean Burger ($10)
Harris Ranch beef burger topped with feta cheese, Greek mix and tzatziki on a toasted bun
A&G Burger Joint, Miami
Three half-pound angus beef patties, four pieces of bacon, three slices of American cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo on a potato bun
100% Angus beef rubbed with Caribbean spices, pepper-Jack cheese, Scotch bonnet mango salsa and jalapeño cream sauce on a potato bun; served and green plantain fries with a mojo aïoli
Blue Moon Burgers, Seattle
Nacho Momma Burger
We start with a freshly toasted Brioche Bun spread thick with our own Cilantro Lime Mayo and add a perfectly grilled third-pound premium beef patty seasoned with our own house-made taco seasoning. Then we pour on our own Green Chili Nacho Cheese Sauce, top it with pico de gallo and crown it off with a layer of crunchy tortilla straws to give this burger a little crunch
Bobby’s Burger Palace, multiple locations
American cheese, yellow mustard, pickled jalapeňo, shredded iceberg lettuce (named for his wife, actress Stephanie March)
BGR The Burger Joint, multiple locations
In Guac We Rock
Our burger topped with guacamole, crispy tortilla slivers, and a farm-fresh Beefsteak tomato
Burger 21, multiple locations
Blue Moon’s Nacho Momma
We’ve topped our seasoned Certified Angus Beef with freshly seared asparagus, melted Gruyère cheese, crispy bacon, lettuce, tomato, whole-grain honey mustard and an over-easy egg
Burger 55, Penicton, BC
The Eklectic Stag ($10.50)
An elk patty on the classic white bun topped with double-cream Brie cheese, red bell pepper, beet strings, lettuce and onion with Dijon mustard, mayo and MB blueberry BBQ sauce
Burger Bar Chicago, Chicago
Meatloaf Burger ($16)
Old-fashioned meatloaf flavored burger topped with a crispy mashed potato cake infused with peas and corn, American cheese, ketchup-Worcestershire glaze and home-style gravy
Burger Revolution, Belleville, ONT
The Grand Poobah!
Water Buffalo Patty, BBQ sauce, cheddar, pepper cheese, ranch dressing, lettuce, tomato and onion (Congrats to Dale Willicombe for naming the burger of the month.)
Click here to continue reading Burger of the Month Specials for May 2013
Source: The NPD Group/”Defining Value Today: How Consumers Choose to Eat Out”
Diners are acutely price-conscious now but their dining preferences may be less strongly determined by promotional or price offers than some operators appear to believe. The NPD Group’s new report, “Defining Value Today: How Consumers Choose to Eat Out,” finds that loyalty keeps many diners returning to their favorite spot no matter what.
The study finds that 42% of consumers say they go to the same place regardless of whether or not a promotional deal is offered. This isn’t the result of “brand inertia,” where diners simply would rather not change their habits. In fact, NPD finds, loyalty is a choice driven by perceived quality and an inclination to define value as more than price.
Loyalty isn’t the majority position, however. More than one-third of consumers say they look for bargains, with 26% saying they switch among restaurant choices depending on promotions and another 9% saying they simply dine wherever is cheapest. Nearly one in five respondents (19%) said they seldom eat out and the remaining 4% said none of the answers was applicable.
“Consumers choosing where to dine is subject to some of the same pricing and deal pressures as other retail categories, but there remains large segments of the population for whom ‘value’ is much more than the lowest prices,” says NPD Restaurant Industry Analyst Bonnie Riggs. “Given this, operators will want to execute different marketing campaigns to appeal to a broad base, while remaining relevant to those seeking out the lowest price and best deals.”