Spring has brought with it acceleration in beef-price increases that hurt consumers and all restaurants, but hit burger joint particularly hard. In April 2014, the average price per pound for ground chuck rose 3.8% to $3.886, according to the latest Consumer Price Index data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Compared with April 2013, ground beef prices are up 11.6%. Over the past two years the rise has been 16.8%.
The overall meat category price index was up 2.9% in April, the largest monthly jump since November 2003. The index for meats, poultry, fish and eggs was up 1.5% in April. Fruits and vegetables also are beginning to show a steady increase, up 0.7% in April.
Meanwhile, the CPI’s average price per pound for whole chicken declined 0.9% in April to $1.53. Compared with a year ago, the index for whole chickens was up 3.9%.
The price index for food at home (supermarket prices) rose 0.4% in April, higher than the 0.3% increase for food away from home (restaurants). However, over the past 12 months, the index for food away from home has risen 2.2%, compared with 1.7% for at-home food.
McDonald’s once again is paying homage to the home of the burger with the “Great Tastes of America” promotion it has run for the past few years in the UK. But this time it has taken the program up a beat, celebrating music as well as burgers.
Agency Razorfish/London has equipped the chain with a “Fresh Beats” digital music-mixing site that allow visitors to create soundtracks with customized beats and sound loops. Further, the music effects change in each of the promotion’s five weeks, pegged to the U.S. city and burger being spotlighted. The first burger was the Chicago Supreme (beef, cheese, bacon, cool mayo and spicy salsa), followed through May 13 by the Nevada Grande (chili mayo, crispy onions, shredded lettuce, cheese and sweet tomato sauce on a chili-topped lattice bun).
Remaining burgers in the promotion are the Texas BBQ (beef patty, bacon, “sticky BBQ sauce,” crispy onions, shredded lettuce and cheese on a sesame-topped bun), New York Classic (beef patty, bacon, ketchup, mustard, red onion, mayo, shredded lettuce and cheese on a chive-and-sesame-topped bun) and Memphis Special (beef patty, shredded lettuce, cheese, coleslaw and smoky BBQ sauce on a chili-topped bun).
The five-week promo concludes with the Memphis Special and R&B music.
Razorfish Creative Director Anders Plyhm told British site TheDrum.com, which first reported the story, “We wanted to create something that people could get involved with. Something that allows them to get in the mood for a great American burger. We’ve built a fun, intuitive interface and one we think McDonald’s fans will thoroughly enjoy.”
Razorfish is unit of Publicis, which also owns Leo Burnett, McDonald’s agency of record in the UK. Razorfish earlier created the “My Burger” campaign for McDonald’s in Germany, which invited consumers to invent the next LTO. This crowdsourcing approach to the menu has since been exported to several other European markets.
Every day there are new burger creations that, while not necessarily worthy of a separate post on the site, at least merit a nod of recognition and appreciation. On an occasional Monday, I’m going to round up “The 7”: the past week’s seven most intriguing burgers. It’s a chance to credit burger joints that have daily or weekly specials, point out new campaigns and, yes, provide an opportunity to run photos of some great burgers.
8 Oz. Burger & Co.
8 Oz. Burger & Co., Seattle
Burger of the Month: Veal chorizo, avocado puree, blue corn tortilla, cheese fondue, cumin sour cream, and pico de gallo.
→ 8 Oz. Burger’s creation for National Burger Month doesn’t have a name but I like experimentation with nontraditional meats. I haven’t seen a veal chorizo burger before.
Burger King, Japan
Premium BBQ Whopper: A 1 mm-thick beef patty with sliced beef, onion, lettuce, smoky BBQ sauce and mayo.
→ This beef-on-beef burger is the centerpiece of a new BBQ menu BK launched last week in Japan. Also included is an “Idaho Burger”: a pork patty topped with a hash-brown patty, Cheddar, onion and smokey BBQ sauce.
Eats of Asia
Eats of Asia, Calgary, Alberta
Busan Bao: Bulgogi beef patty, Korean BBQ sauce, chopped green onion and crushed peanuts on steamed bao.
→ We can now add steamed bao to the ever-lengthening list of unexpected bun choices. This creations was one of 30 burgers competing in last week’s YYC Burger Week in Calgary (initials are the city’s airport code). Click the link for all the burgers involved. Click here to continue reading The 7: Last Week’s Most Intriguing Burgers
While Taco Bell urges America to try its Waffle Taco, McDonald’s promotes McGriddles, White Castle whips up Belgian Waffle Breakfast Sandwiches, Dunkin’ Dunuts tempts with Eggs Benedict Breakfast Sandwich and so on, Burger King is going to sell a breakfast item it already knows everyone loves: burgers.
Burger King is rolling out a new “Burgers at Breakfast” menu that makes selected lunch and dinner favorites available in the morning alongside the chain’s regular breakfast items. Previously, the rule was that burgers weren’t available until 10:00 or 10:30 a.m. Some franchisees already had been circumventing that timetable and were selling breakfast burgers. Now corporate has given a formal green light to the practice, within boundaries.
So rather than figure out how to sell breakfast all day—as McDonald’s has been trying to do—Burger King has decided instead to sell burgers all day.
The company told BurgerBusiness.com that 5,000 restaurants have opted in to run the Burgers at Breakfast program, although it is not in that many locations yet. One operator told BurgerBusiness.com her stores would be activating the program by the end of this month, once merchandising materials such as drive-thru signage arrived. She said radio advertising would support the program.
Burger King has issued a Required Menu for the Burgers at Breakfast program that mandates an extensive selection: Whoppers and Double Whoppers, the new Big King, Whopper Jr. burgers, cheeseburgers, double cheeseburgers, Bacon Double Cheeseburger, Original Chicken Sandwich and french fries.
In a statement to BurgerBusiness.com, Burger King said of the program, “Selling Burgers at Breakfast at Burger King restaurants allows our guests to start their day being their way—either with the great flame broiled taste of our signature burgers and sandwiches or with our delicious suite of breakfast offerings.”
Burger King has been promoting a King Deals Breakfast Value Menu with French Toast Sticks, Sausage & Cheese Muffin Sandwich and Sausage Breakfast Burrito starting at just $1.
BK’s Required Menu for the “Burgers at Breakfast” program.
McDonald’s has been wrestling with the question of how to extend breakfast hours for many years. As exclusively reported here, in January 2013 McDonald’s began testing a “McDonald’s After Midnight” menu that offered a limited “best of” selection of both breakfast and lunch/dinner items between midnight and 4 a.m. That program has since essentially rolled out systemwide but the chain continues to look for new ways to please Egg McMuffin fans after 10:30 a.m.
Research from The NPD Group finds that early morning hours (5 a.m. to 8 a.m.) aren’t the most important. It finds that 75% of QSR visits before 11 a.m. come in the 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. period.
All the interest in morning business, of course, stems from its being the only daypart showing traffic growth. NPD data earlier this year found that consumers cut back on restaurant visits for lunch and dinner in 2013 while breakfast visits increased for the fourth consecutive year. Every chain wants a share of that increase.
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Culver’s always will be the home of the ButterBurger, but as it expands–its 500th unit opened in March and it is in 21 states–the Wisconsin-based chain continues to look at what it can bring to its menu, including chicken
In September 2011, the chain introduced a new line of premium, antibiotic-free, natural chicken sandwiches and tenders to a menu best known for its Cheddar ButterBurger, Beef Pot Roast Sandwich, Grilled Reuben Melt, Pork Tenderloin and North Atlantic Cod Filet Sandwich. Now Culver’s—ranked as the 10th largest burger chain by Technomic—is testing a new tier for the chicken platform: premium chicken-breast sandwiches in a variety of preparations and flavors all served on ciabatta rolls, a carrier it hasn’t used before.
The Crispy Buffalo Chicken Sandwich is a crispy chicken patty tossed in Buffalo sauce and finished with creamy blue-cheese spread. The Crispy Southwest Chicken Sandwich has a “boldly breaded “ chicken filet with pepper-Jack cheese and jalapeňo ranch dressing. The Blackened Grilled Chicken Sandwich has a Cajun-seasoned chicken breast that’s marinated and then grilled. It’s topped with smoked Gouda and a creamy Cajun mayo.
When the sandwiches were given the usual “shakedown” test in Culver’s stores around its Prairie du Sac, Wis., headquarters, they scored well. But customers loved the ciabatta. “We wanted to see if ciabatta would be more appealing than the hoagie roll we’re using currently for chicken,” David Stidham, Culver’s VP-Marketing told BurgerBusiness.com. “The only marketing was point-of-purchase materials on the counter, some with the hoagie and some with ciabatta. People understand trends and flavor profiles a lot better than we give them credit for because they chose the ciabatta 2-to-1 over the hoagie roll.”
It’s a sign that consumers continue to be increasingly sophisticated about new foods and flavors. “Everybody’s a foodie now,” he says. That’s good because five years ago customers likely would have asked what ciabatta is. “It’s a great, tasty roll. It’s soft but it holds that chicken well so it’s not as messy to eat,” he says.
Now that the three chicken sandwiches are getting in-restaurant testing—but with no marketing support other than menu-board translights—Culver’s is watching sales to see which might be selected soonest as a national LTO. “We’re also going to watch very carefully how this ciabatta bun does,” Stidham says. “That could lead to other opportunities for some of our other sandwiches like pot roast, prime rib, fish and so on.”
Sophie’s Sweet Onion Camembert Burger
At this time each year I say it’s always National Burger Month on BurgerBusiness.com. It’s true and obvious, if only because of the Burger of the Month specials roundup that runs at the beginning of each month. I am continually amazed at the creativity, culinary skill and audacity of the people who dream up new burgers.
I mean, you have to shake your head at the ingredient list for Grill ‘Em All’s May Burger of the Month, called the “Death (Official) aka La Parka”: A half-pound burger seasoned with ghost-pepper salt and topped with braised-goat-ghost-chili with plantain, ghost pepper Jack cheese, crema, fiesta rice and avocado. And when you think that’s just nuts you encounter PYT’s Fried Chicken & Beer Burger, which includes fried wontons filled with Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. Crazy. And I would like one, please.
Slater’s 50/50 Bison Burger
Ditto the “Borrego Merguez ‘Lamb on Lamb’ Burger” at Chicago’s Burger Bar: A lamb burger stacked with spicy lamb & pork sausage, charred tomato and green onion salsa, spinach, Manchego cheese and mint chimichurri aïoli. Love it.
National Burger Month does entice non-burger-bars to create special burgers, of course. One such is Sophie’s, a genteel restaurant found on the 7th floor of Saks Fifth Avenue in Chicago. For the month, Sophie’s is menuing a Sophie’s Sweet Onion Camembert Burger. It begins with an 8-oz. Black Angus beef and adds creamy Camembert, house-made red-onion marmalade, wild Illinois arugula, and organic-ramp aïoli, serving it on a house-made peppercorn roll with truffled fries and house-made pickles. Partial proceeds from sale of the burger benefit Meals on Wheels. Bravo.
And attention must be paid to Slater’s 50/50, where the nod to National Burger Month is nothing less than the creation of four new burgers; one per week. First up is the Bison Burger (shown at left): a 90% lean ground-bison patty with caramelized onions, roasted red pepper and blue cheese coulis, pistachio butter, grilled tomato and baby greens on a honey-wheat bun. You’ll need to go to the May Burger of the Month list to check out the other three builds. Go there now! There are lots of burger ideas worth borrowing for your menu.