Jack in the Box sought to drive breakfast traffic with a Breakfast Melts deal.
Customer traffic at breakfast has been among the few bright spots—and sometimes the only bright spot—for the restaurant business. Last year, morning-meal visits were up 3% while both lunch and dinner showed 1% declines, according to data from The NPD Group.
But in 2014 first quarter, even breakfast struggled. Morning visits were down 1% for all restaurants, compared with the same period last year, NPD reports. At QSRs, which showed a 4% gain in breakfast traffic in 2013, morning traffic was flat. Midscale/family restaurants, for many of which breakfast is a key daypart, saw a 3% decline in morning-meal customer counts in Q1.
Lunch and dinner business declined across all segments, which NPD sees as a result of young adults ages 25 to 49 cutting back on restaurant visits.
But thanks in part to widespread bad weather, Q1 was tough for almost all restaurants: Overall traffic was down 1%. But consumers who didn’t want to go out for food weren’t deterred: Delivery orders were up 4% for the quarter. QSR coffee/donut/bagel restaurants saw a 4% traffic bump up.
Midscale/family and casual-dining sectors continue to decline. Midscale was down 4% compared with the same period a year ago. Traffic at casual dining was off 2%.
Welcome to half-spring, half summer June. The Burger of the Month specials on burger joints around the world have ingredients indicative of both seasons. For example, springtime-fresh watercress is featured on two burgers. There also are a surprising number of burgers featuring goat cheese. It’s on the Napa Valley Burger at Bobby Flay’s Bobby’s Burger Palace; on DMK Burger Bar’s It’s Greek to Me burger; on Grill ’Em All’s The Black Dahlia Murder Burg (truffled goat cheese, no less) and, of course on the Goat Tell It On the Mountain burger at Flipdaddy’s.
Black Betty’s Surf ‘n Turf
I think of fried green tomatoes as a summer treat, but they’re already sneaking onto menus: Stuft in Fort Collins, Colo., has a Fried Green Tomato Burger; Twisted Root Burger Co. in Texas is featuring a Southern Comfort burger with fried green tomatoes (plus barbecue bourbon glaze, mind you).
Twisted Root’s Southern Comfort
In Copenhagen, Denmark, The Bronx Burger Bar says its Burger of the Month, The Baconaise, “combines 3 of the most popular things on a burger”: Onion, bacon and… béarnaise sauce? That sounds wrong but I noticed that the BOTM at Black Betty Burger & Wine Bar is a Wagyu beef patty topped with sautéed garlic prawns and, yes, béarnaise sauce.
Black Betty’s combo of beef prawns is one of several multi-protein burgers. At BGR: That Burger Joint, the Pulled BBQ Burger has beef topped with pulled pork; Burger 55’s special has a beef patty topped with root-beer-smoked pulled pork; Kuma’s Corner tops a 10-oz. beef burger with a veal schnitzel patty; and Slater’s 50/50’s Surf & Turf has seasoned beef and a whole-lump crab cake.
The complete list of all 50 Burger of the Month specials on menus around the world can be found here. You won’t have to look far for a great idea for your burger bar.
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers is back in the movie tie-in game, this week launching a Colosuss Burger LTO tied to the film “Hercules,” opening July25.
The $10.99 burger is a bit of departure for Red Robin by combining two meats. The beef patty is topped with chopped smoked brisket plus provolone cheese, red and yellow onions, and two house barbecue sauces.
Red Robin customers can get a free ticket to “Hercules” when they purchase a limited-edition gift card touting the film.
Last summer Red Robin promoted a Berserker burger and a Kuzuri (Japanese for wolverine) Tavern Style topping package in a tie-in with the film “Wolverine.”
McDonald’s is ramping up its use here of a menu-marketing tactic that has worked for it overseas: the multi-person meal bundle.
The corporate recommendation is a two-person box.
McDonald’s co-ops have the option of offering a new FIFA World Cup Bundle Box, which includes food for two (or more) in a box thematically tied to the upcoming World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil (beginning June 12). A McDonald’s spokesperson confirmed the item and said approximately 6,500 U.S. McDonald’s locations are participating in the Bundle Box program.
At least one co-op has made it a four-person bundle for the same price.
The corporate recommendation is that the Bundle Box be priced at $14.99 and include two big Macs, two 10-piece Chicken McNuggets, four sauce and two medium fries. However, co-ops have the option to change the menu items included. In Southern California, the boxed meal with World Cup graphics is labeled a Mickey D’s Value Pack and has food for four for the same $15: four McChicken sandwiches; four cheeseburgers, a 20-piece McNuggets and four medium soft drinks.
Bundled meals provide cost savings for consumers and margin improvement for operators by ensuring that high-profit fries and drinks are included.
Boxed multi-person meals are common in the pizza category but not with burgers. McDonald’s first tried the platform in 2010 with its Dinner Boxes in Australia and since spread boxed meals to several markets in Europe. In Austria the chain offers a multi-person “Chicken Box” with Chicken McNuggets and chicken wings. In the U.S., Kansas City, Mo. McDonald’s operators were the first to try the approach last year with a food-for-two Blitz Box. Two-person “Mickey D’s Value Pack” boxes appeared in Western markets last fall.
Among U.S. burger festivals, The Oinkster’s Burger Week has been one of the best. The Los Angeles burger joint’s 4th annual Burger Week party begins next Monday (6/2) and the lineup continues the tradition of inventive and tasty combinations. A different burger is available each day. Six are new; the last is a customer-requested returnee.
HotBurg on a Stick
Monday’s burger is the The Cheesesteak Burger of Philadelphia: Freshly sliced Nebraska Angus chuck griddled with green and red peppers and onions, two sliced of sharp provolone cheese on top of a Nebraska Angus patty and served on a French burger bun.
I’d certainly show up Tuesday to sample the HotBurg on a Stick. That’s two Nebraska Angus rolls stuffed with cheese, cornmeal battered and deep fried. On a stick.
The Turducken will be offered on Wednesday. The build: Duck pastrami, deep-fried chicken breast and a seasoned turkey patty topped with cherry gastrique, rosemary-garlic relish and mayo on a potato bun.
Once again, Oinkster’s Chef Andre Guerrero invited the gentlemen from Grill ‘Em All in Alhambra, Calif., to contribute something special. The Pantera Burger on Thursday will display Grill ‘Em All’s culinary flair: Nebraska Angus Beef topped with pulled pork, bacon, deep-fried mac n cheese and garlic aïoli served on a brioche bun
The Oinkster’s Flashback Friday selection is the past creation chosen by customers. The Big Max is two Nebraska Angus beef patties, pickles, shredded lettuce, cheese and onions on a double bun with sesame seeds.
Saturday is The Smoinkster day: Angus patty infused with smoke, applewood-smoked bacon, smoked Cheddar cheese, smoked white onion, smoked ketchup and fried pickles on a kaiser bun.
Burger Week concludes with The Oinkster’s take on the all-American stuffed, Juicy Lucy burger. It’s version is The Lucy Goosey: Nebraska Angus beef patty stuffed with a mixture of cheeses, griddled onions and Juicy Lucy Spread on a seedless bun.
The Oinkster’s video shot during last year’s Burger Week gives a taste of the burger celebrating that goes on.
Hero Certified Burgers’ Action Hero
May 28 is National Burger Day in the U.S. and a few places will have special deals, but Canada proves itself unmatched in its ability to celebrate burgers and burger joints. Halifax, Nova Scotia, celebrated Burger Week in March. Prince Edward Island’s month-long PEI Burger Love fest in April had 54 participating restaurants. Thirty joints took part in Calgary’s Burger Week May 2-10. Le Burger Week, in September, is held simultaneously in Montreal, Quebec City, Vancouver and Winnipeg.
Big Smoke’s The Blazing Pineapple
Toronto’s third annual Burger Week gets going tomorrow (5/28), hosted by city weekly The Grid. Through Saturday, 67 area restaurants will feature special burgers. Most are $5 although higher-priced “Black Tie Specials” can be offered with a part of the proceeds designated for a charity.
The festivities culminate on Sunday, June 1, with Burger Day. All of the participating restaurants will have stands at the city’s Fort York Historic Site. Admission is $20; sliders are $3, sides are $1 and beer is $5.
Big Smoke Burger, a Toronto chain now expanding into the U.S., will be featuring The Blazing Pineapple Burger: a ground chuck patty with grilled, glazed pineapple, hot peppers, mayo, barbecue sauce, and lettuce. Another local chain, Hero Certified Burgers, will feature The Action Hero: an Angus beef patty, guacamole, bacon, chili white Cheddar, onion ring, tomato, lettuce, and Hero sauce.
Dozens of other interesting burgers will be offered. Check out the complete list of attendees and their burgers. Then get your town to start putting together a Burger Week for next year.