2014 Burger Brackets Voting is Over

Congratulations to champion Burgatory! Thank you for casting a record 149,789 votes and thank you to A.1. Steak Sauce for making this year’s competition possible.

Add Value to Menus with Wisconsin Cheese

When you turn your cheese- burgers 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 on the logo above or the burger below to visit the recipe page. Try a new Wisconsin Cheeseburger recipe today!

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Pal’s Reaches Out to Absent Friends

Pal’s Sudden Service restaurants don’t look like those of any other burger chain in America, so it’s only right that it has an advertising strategy all its own. Pal’s latest campaign doesn’t spotlight Millennials, teens or heavy users but people who can’t visit its restaurants.

“Come Home to Pal’s” is the theme of the marketing campaign that broke this week. The 25-location chain, based in Kingsport, Tenn., knows that some of its loyal fans have moved away for one reason or another. The chain says approximately 20% of its 48,000 Facebook followers live outside its northeastern Tennessee/southwestern Virginia territory. So the chain is inviting those who love its Big Pal burgers, hot dogs and Frenchie Fries to submit a 150-words-or-less essay via http://palsweb.com/comehome nominating someone who should come on home to Pal’s.

Nothing else looks like a Pal's restaurant.

Nothing else looks like a Pal’s restaurant.

“We consistently receive comments through our social media sites from folks who used to live in our region, wishing that they were back home so that they could enjoy the Pal’s menu,” said Pal’s President-CEO Thom Crosby. “Just in time for the holidays, we are going to delight one lucky person with that opportunity. We will select one person, who can bring a guest, to receive round-trip airfare home for a visit with old friends and a catered meal to feed up to 25 people from Pal’s.”

The multimedia campaign, created by longtime Pal’s agency Creative Energy in Johnson City, Tenn., uses broadcast, outdoor and social media to connect with current and past Pal’s customers. A TV spot (above) features a woman who makes a friend homesick by enjoying a Pal’s hot dog during their online Skype conversation. The contest runs through Nov. 15, 2013.

Burgers of the Month for October 2013

Cinnamon on a burger. I hadn’t considered it, but two burger spots—Kuma’s Too and Milwaukee Burger Co.—create Burgers of the Month for October that work cinnamon into their builds. Check them out. Not surprisingly there are a few Oktoberfest burgers among the monthly specials, but several joints—Grill ‘Em All and Kuma’s Corner among them—that peg specials to Halloween. By the way, Grill ‘Em All surely is the first to top a burger with a “savory pumpkin-sage polenta cake.” It might be the only place that would do that, which is why its customers love it.

Honest Burgers' Beef & Black Pudding Burger

Honest Burgers’ Beef & Black Pudding Burger

On the topic of nontraditional toppings, this month we welcome London’s Honest Burgers. Its special this month is a Beef & Black Pudding burger with apple tempura, tarragon-and-caper mayonnaise and baby leaf lettuce. That’s not on your menu. Note, too, that athletes get LTO burgers at two spots: brb’s RGIII burger (for the Redskins QB) and DMK Burger Bar’s The Kaner (Blackhawks star Patrick Kane). The Oinkster salutes “Parks And Recreation” star Nick Offerman with a ham-topped burger. And Slater’s 50/50 stands apart from the crowd again with a Korean-inspired Bulgogi Burger.

October Burger of the Month specials:

5 Star Burgers, multiple locations, Southwest
Oktoberfest Burger
Harris Ranch beef burger with Swiss cheese and IPA Ale-braised onions.

8 Oz. Burger Bar, Seattle
Prosciutto Burger
House-blend patty, roasted-garlic tomatoes, shaved prosciutto, mozzarella, basil pesto with an over-easy egg.

A&G Burger Joint, Miami
Volcano Burger
Angus beef patty basted with our house-made fire buffalo sauce, built with pepper-Jack cheese, jalapeños, lettuce tomato and red onion. Served on a brioche bun with chipotle mayo.

BGR: The Burger Joint, multiple locations
BGR Legendary burger topped with Muenster cheese, bratwurst, sauerkraut and mustard-ale sauce all on a pretzel bun

Burger 21's Over Easy Bacon Cheesy

Burger 21′s Over Easy Bacon Cheesy

 Blue Moon Burgers, Seattle
The Sloppy Joe
We take our premium beef, fresh onion, red & green bell peppers and cook them together to bring you the Sloppiest of Joes!

Bobby’s Burger Palace, multiple locations
Nacho Burger
Tomato-chipotle salsa, nacho cheese sauce, pickled jalapeňos, blue corn chips

brb: Be Right Burger, Reston, Va.
Angus burger topped with Swiss cheese, shaved ham and Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce

Buckeye Beer Engine, Lakewood, Ohio
Tadd’s Thai Bang-Bang Burger ($9)
A half pound burger patty topped with a Thai peanut sauce, red and green bell peppers, bean sprouts,and fresh jalapeňo slices. Served with a breaded pickle and Beer Engine chips.

Burger 21, multiple locations
Over Easy Bacon Cheesy
The Over Easy Bacon Cheesy takes our beefy Bacon Cheesy up a notch with a freshly made over-easy egg, avocado slices and Dijon-chive mayo.

Click here to continue reading Burgers of the Month for October 2013

TGI Fridays Reinvents its Burgers

TGI Fridays today (Oct. 1) launches a completely revamped burger menu at its restaurants across the U.S. The top-to-bottom reconsideration involves a shift to fresh USDA Choice beef rather than frozen Angus, freshly baked buns, new builds and the addition of a premium-priced tier of Stacked Burgers. Dan Dillon, senior director of menu development for the Carrollton, Texas-based chain, outlined the new burger platform and the reasons for its adoption.

Double-patty Stacked Burgers give TGI Fridays a premium tier.

Double-patty Stacked Burgers give TGI Fridays a premium tier.

How long has this been in development?
We’ve been working on launching better burgers for Fridays for the better part of the last two years. It has taken a very guest-focused approach to land on a program that represents our quality vision and is something our guests have responded to and approved after easily five to six different iterations of testing.

This is fresh, handcrafted burgers. We’ve started over with our burgers. We launched Black Angus burgers several years back [in 2001] and it did well for a while. But we decided that we wanted to make more of a quality statement that was about freshness. Being an American bar and grill, it was something we had to do and we had to do it right.

How is that statement made?
We’ve improved every element of the burger experience from the burger itself to the build, the bun, plating and the distribution network to bring product to the restaurants. So we’ve truly started over to change our burgers and make a quality statement.

The reason [the new burger] is so important to us is that it’s a requirement for an American bar and grill to have a great burger. We looked at our burger objectively and asked, “Is this a great burger?” We decided it was a really good burger but not one we could build a brand on.

We took a step back and decided to reclaim ownership as the American bar and grill restaurant. We sell about 42,000 burgers a day so they need to be quality, kick-ass and special. That’s why we focused on burgers as a category and why it took a long time to do it right.

Is the burger itself still Angus beef?
It’s not Angus. It’s 100% USDA Choice and it’s delivered to our restaurants fresh. A fresh burger delivers a different mouth feel; it has beefier notes. It’s higher quality and a better experience for our guests.

We increased the patty size to 7 ounces from 6 ounces. We did that not to give guests more. They weren’t asking us for more; it wasn’t about portion size. We did it because that additional ounce yields a better eating experience.

We tested a lot of different cuts and landed on a blend that our guests say gives those quality benefits. It’s that looser grind that freshness gives you that a frozen product never could deliver.

We also adjusted our fat content to deliver more flavor and to give a juicier burger.

The new Bleu Cheese Stacked Burger

The new Bleu Cheese Stacked Burger

 So a slightly higher fat content?
Yes. We were at 80/20 and we adjusted it to 75/25. It’s all about flavor and delivering a juicier burger. And we now will offer guests the option of having it cooked pink or no-pink. We took a step back from doing that a couple of years ago simply for consistency sake. Now we want guests to have it cooked the way they want.

You’re revamping the build as well?
Yes. We’ve gone to a new bun that is freshly baked. We have set a network of local bakeries that will deliver fresh buns to about 80% of our nearly 600 restaurants. A new buttery, brioche style bun will be delivered to them. It’s a buttery bun because fat equals flavor. And for the 20% where we couldn’t get that network in place we are doing a par-baked bun that we bake off fresh every shift. So you rebloom the aromas.

As for the build itself, we’ve always done lettuce, tomato, pickles and onion as a default. But everything was on top of the burger patty. What we’ve done is flip it so all that goes on the bottom, under the burger. And we’ve switched from leaf lettuce to iceberg lettuce to develop some crisp, fresh notes and texture.

One reason for the flip is that the burger sits up beautifully. The burger is what the guest wants; the patty itself is the hero. But there’s a functional benefit as well. When you bite into that burger, the first note you get is the buttery brioche bun, then the cheese, then the beef and then cold, fresh vegetables. It eats better because each ingredient is doing the right work at the right time in the right order.
Click here to continue reading TGI Fridays Reinvents its Burgers

Why Restaurant Ad Spending is Soaring

[As predicted, Wendy's introduced the Pretzel Pub Chicken on Oct. 1. Go here for details.]
Around its Dublin, Ohio, headquarters, Wendy’s is offering a new Pretzel Pub Chicken sandwich, a limited-time offering (LTO) that is expected to be introduced systemwide as early as this week. The build includes a chicken patty, Muenster cheese, lettuce, tomato, cheese sauce and honey-mustard sauce all served on the pretzel bun introduced in July with the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger. The premium-tier item is priced at about $4.79 a la carte.

And when that LTO has run its course, sources say Wendy’s could roll out a Spicy Santa Fe Burger with pepper-jack cheese and guacamole on a Cheddar-jalapeňo bun.

Source: Kantar Media

Source: Kantar Media

The chain-restaurant industry’s wildly accelerated pace of LTO introductions is an important reason for the wild advertising spending spree the industry is seeing. Rising five times faster than total U.S. ad spending, restaurants’ explosion is a response to a sluggish, slow-growth marketplace where stealing share is the best way to make gains.

But hand-to-hand share combat is expensive. During Q2 of 2013, restaurant sector advertising was $1.732 billion, a 12.6% increase over the same period last year, according to data from Kantar Media. Consider that overall U.S. ad spending was up just 3.5% for the quarter and the size of restaurants’ ad bulge is in perspective. Automotive spending was up 6.9%; retail rose 0.1%.

The Q2 numbers are an acceleration of a trend that began at the beginning of this year. In Q1, the growth in restaurant ad spending was 8% over the prior year while total U.S. spending was actually down by 0.1%.

Through the first half of 2013, restaurant ad spending of $3.354.5 is 10% higher than during the first two quarters of 2012. Total U.S. ad spending was up only 2% in the first half. Restaurant spending is outpacing the total by a factor of five.

Wendy's "Red" character (actress Morgan Smith Goodwin) has become an effective sales tool in ads.

Wendy’s “Red” character (actress Morgan Smith Goodwin) has become an effective sales tool in ads.

Visit BurgerBusiness.com’s New Menu Items Archive and a key driver for soaring ad spending is evident: During the first half of this year, the volume of new menu products—almost all of them LTOs—exceeded what would have been a full year’s marketing calendar not long ago. Burger King was a leader with its “seasonal waves” of new products, which included the BK Rib, Bacon Cheddar Stuffed Burger, Chipotle Whopper, Chipotle Chicken Sandwich, Turkey Burger, Veggie Burger, Philly Chicken Sandwich and Italian Chicken sandwich. That was just during the first two quarters, and doesn’t even include price promotions like the heavily advertised $1.29 Whopper Jr. offer.

But Burger King has been alone in revving up its menu expansion. Jack in the Box advertised several new items including the Hot Mess Burger, Big Stack Burger and Big Waffle Stack, Bacon Cheddar Potato Wedges, BLT Cheeseburger and Chipotle Chicken Club. McDonald’s revamped its Quarter Pounder with new flavors and added Fish McBites and a new Grilled Onion Cheddar burger for its Dollar Menu. Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s first two quarters brought a Jim Beam Bourbon Burger, Super Bacon Cheeseburger, Pork Chop ‘N Gravy Biscuit, Cranberry Apple Walnut Salad and more. Wendy’s introduced its Flatbread Grilled Chicken platform and Berry Almond Chicken Salad (with its major Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger launch in the first week of Q3).

Last year, BurgerBusiness.com reported Mintel data showing QSRs’ usage of LTOs had increased nearly 50% over the preceding year. The restaurant marketplace hasn’t improved so far in the second half of this year so heavy spending is likely to continue. The difference likely will be that chains will spend heavily on a smaller number of new products. Burger King executives told analysts in July that it was stepping back from its previous strategy of launching multiple new menu items at once. Since then Burger King has added just two new products—the $1 French Fry Burger and Satisfries—one at a time. But with heavy advertising, of course.

Retail is Eating Restaurants’ Lunch

Source: The NPD Group

Source: The NPD Group

Restaurants want to believe that the 1% decline in customer traffic at lunch since 2008 is the result of debt-laden consumers spending less. Maybe. But NPD Group data finds that many of those customers haven’t left the marketplace; they simply opted to go across the street to a Wegmans, Walgreen’s or Walmart to grab lunch.

Since 2008, lunch-daypart customer traffic at retail stores (including grocery/drug stores, discount stores, price clubs, and others) has increased by 29% according to a new NPD report, The Retail Prepared Foods Market: Assessing the Competition. Over that same period, restaurant lunch traffic is down 1%.

NPD identifies the key drivers for retail’s growth in foodservice as availability of healthy options, good variety of foods, light meal availability, one-stop-shopping convenience and, of course, affordability, an attribute QSRs are trying so hard to offer.

Grab-n-go subs and salads at Wegmans

Grab-n-go subs and salads at Wegmans

Retail’s incursion isn’t going to go away. NPD forecasts prepared food purchased at retailers for at-home consumption will increase 10% over the next decade. Restaurant traffic is forecast to see just a 4% growth over that period. Lunch represents just 20% of retail’s prepared foods, but the dinner daypart, which is 35% of the total also is growing. NPD says food purchased at retail for lunch or dinner consumption at home at at work is driving growth.

Said Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst, “It’s fact that retail prepared foods are taking visits away from restaurants and restaurant visits are not expected to grow much over the next decade, but there is also significant opportunity for foodservice operators to meet consumers’ needs for prepared foods. Learning more about how consumers use retail stores for their foodservice-type meals enable restaurant operators and their supplier partners to understand how to better compete in this area of growing consumer demand.”

Restaurant researcher Technomic says supermarket prepared foods have increased more than 6% annually over the past five years. But mass merchandisers/supercenters have seen even greater growth, exceeding 13% over same time period Restaurant sales haven’t come close to matching that growth during the period.

McDonald’s Opening Unit in TV Studio

McDonald’s will have a functioning outlet as part of a new Australian morning TV show, “Wake Up.” Announcement of the deal with Network Ten has brought the expected criticism from some nutritionists.

McD_Aussie_MaccasLogoThe McDonald’s operation won’t be available to the public. Instead its two full-time staffers will be preparing breakfast items for the show’s on-air talent and guests, The Sydney Morning Herald reports. The unit will be part of the studio but not part of the show’s set. The “Wake Up” program has not yet begun airing.

Network Ten called creation of the world’s smallest McDonald’s part of its sales staff’s “premium creative solutions … to amplify brands on air, online and on ground.”

Not surprisingly, some nutritionists reacted with shock. “Will they stop at nothing?” nutritionist Rosemary Stanton wailed to the paper, worrying about the possible repercussions of people shown eating Egg McMuffins or drinking coffee. ”We just make life so hard for parents, with this constant promotion of junk food,” added Stanton. Network Ten responded that “Wake Up” is not a children’s program.

McD_Aussie_DriveThru2Separately, McDonald’s in Australia (where it is colloquially known as Macca’s) has launched a “Drive Thru to Win” promotion open only to customers who use its drive-thru windows. Codes printed on drive-thru receipts can be entered online. Top prizes in the six-week game are Hyundai i30s, with cash cards awarded daily.

An estimated 60% of McDonald’s revenues come via its drive-thru windows. In  2010, McDonald’s Australia offered a three-minute service guarantee on its drive-thru service.

Typecasting: 50 Great Burger-Joint Logos

Brunch Box, Portland, OR

Brunch Box, Portland, OR

Burger Parlor, Fullerton, CA

Burger Parlor, Fullerton, CA

A year ago, BurgerBusiness.com gathered 20 great burger-joint logos in a post that proved to be very popular. A sequel was promised. I’ve gained several new favorites since that post, including Brunch Box (at left) in Portland, Ore., for its graphic elegance and clever incorporation of the burger shape. Another is the logo for Burger Parlor in Fullerton, Calif. The contrast between the simple graphic and very precise typography at the bottom with the goofy “i’m juicy” at top is delightful. That’s the business and creative sides of burger making colliding. Many of the best logos do that.

If you look at dozens of burger-joint logos, some stylistic patterns and types emerge. So rather than simply toss out my favorites, I’ve decided to arrange 50 great logos (counting Brunch Box and Burger Parlor) into some of the design categories I see. There isn’t room to look at all categories or all examples because the burger business’s creativity isn’t limited to its menus.

Cows. There’s no getting around where great beef burgers come from. Cows feature prominently in many burger-joint logos. The Rail deserves applause for acknowledging cows’ true relationship to burgers. The logo for Moo Gourmet Burgers in Sydney, Australia, is a bit of Rorschach test, but there’s a cow in there.

Bóbós, Dublin, Ireland

Bóbós, Dublin, Ireland


Farm Burger, Atlanta

Farm Burger, Atlanta

HopDoddy Burger Bar, Austin, TX

HopDoddy Burger Bar, Austin, TX








Moo Cluck Moo, Dearborn Heights, MI

Moo Cluck Moo, Dearborn Heights, MI

The Rail, Akron,Ohio

The Rail, Akron,Ohio


Moo Gourmet Burgers, Sydney, Australia

Moo Gourmet Burgers, Sydney, Australia








Burger Shapes. Both of the new favorites I showed above incorporate burger shapes, which is one of the primary logo-design categories. Here are a few more where burgers are stylishly adapted:


Fonzie, Rome, Italy

Fonzie, Rome, Italy

Milk Burger, New York City

Milk Burger, New York City








Punch, Indianapolis

Punch, Indianapolis

Shamrock Burgers, Toronto

Shamrock Burgers, Toronto

Wannaburger, Edinburgh, Scotland

Wannaburger, Edinburgh, Scotland








Click here to continue reading Typecasting: 50 Great Burger-Joint Logos

Burger King Intros Lower-Cal, Higher-Price “Satisfries”

Burger King is changing its french fries again, this time adding premium-price, healthier fries alongside those it introduced two years ago. The company calls this latest fry innovation “one of the biggest fast food launches” ever.

Crinkle-cut Satisfries are available across the U.S.

Crinkle-cut Satisfries are available across the U.S.

The new “Satisfries” will be on Burger King menus systemwide on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013. These are crinkle-cut fries that the chain claims are more healthful than the fries McDonald’s serves: 40% lower in fat (6.3 grams compared with 11.2 grams per 70 gram serving) with 30% fewer calories (150.5 calories for Satisfries vs. 226.8 for McDonald’s fries for a 70 g serving). With calorie counts now showing up on menu boards, any reduction can be a persuasive marketing tool.

Satisfries are priced about 20¢ to 30¢ higher than comparable servings of Burger King’s “classic” fries (which remain on the menu), a spokesperson said. The new fries will be available in value ($1.29 suggested), small ($1.89), medium ($2.09) and large ($2.29) serving sizes.

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 10.27.34 PMThe chain says its new Satisfries are made with thinly battered real whole potatoes. It claims the new product’s recipe allows them to absorb less oil during frying, thus reducing fat and calories. The smallest (value) serving of Satisfries has 190 calories, 8 grams of fat 210 milligrams of sodium.

The Hudson Institute in February reported a study that found sales of french fries declined nearly 2% (or about 10 million servings a year) at five big restaurant chains between 2006 and 2011. “French fries are declining in both number of servings and share of total food servings among quick-service chains that have more than $3 billion in sales,” the report concluded. It noted that lower-calorie beverages were outperforming traditional sweetened beverages at these chains.

“One out of every two Burger King guests orders our classic french fries and we know our guests are hungry for options that are better for them, but don’t want to compromise on taste,” Alex Macedo, Burger King President North America, said in a release announcing the product rollout. “When it comes to what we eat, we know that small changes can have a big impact. We see Satisfries™ as one of the biggest fast food launches and are excited to bring this great tasting french fry to our guests.”

Fall seems to be the season for revamping QSR french fry offerings. Wendy’s introduced its Natural-Cut Fries with Sea Salt in November 2010. Burger King followed in November 2011 by introducing its current thicker-cut fries (though not as thick as those Wendy’s previously offered). In July 2011, McDonald’s announced it would reduce the size of french fry servings in its Happy Meals for kids, with apple slices available as a substitute for the fries.