Restaurant customer traffic showed no growth in 2014 but NPD Group reports it was a great year to be a burger.
Burgers were served 9 billion times at U.S. restaurants and foodservice outlets last year, a 3% increase from 2013.
New burgers, like Chili’s Craft Burger line, helped boost burger servings.
Burgers’ gain comes at the expense of the sandwich category, according to NPD. Sandwich servings declined 2% in 2014, which translates to a loss of 201 million servings. Grilled chicken sandwiches, which have become even more ubiquitous on menus than burgers, did not fare well, dropping 9% or 129 million servings.
Bulk ground beef case shipments to all QSRs increased by 3% last year but by 4% at QSR burger concepts (which account for 70& of bulk ground beef sales). Case shipments of ground beef to full-service restaurants were up 1%.
Visits to QSR burger restaurants were down slightly (3%) but that was balanced by a 3% uptick in hamburger servings at these restaurants. Burger servings also were up (by 4%) at casual-dining restaurants. NPD says more burgers were added to casual-dining menus—such as the Craft Burger line added at Chili’s—to offset higher wholesale beef prices and higher beef menu prices. Beef entrée servings declined by 8% or 55 million orders in 2014.
“The success of burgers in 2014 was a combination of factors,” according to Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “Quick service restaurant chains launched new burger item, casual-dining restaurants added more burger items to the menu to offset higher beef costs and Americans simply love their burgers.”
In poker a “tell” is a facial expression or word that inadvertently betrays the power or deficiency of a player’s hand. It can happen in business, too, and Mike Andres, named last August to replace Jeff Stratton as president of McDonald’s USA, said something during last Friday’s Q4 earnings call that was, well, telling.
McDonald’s performance for all of 2104 “fell short of our expectations,” President and CEO Don Thompson told analysts. Global comparable sales were down 1% for the full year and off 0.9% for Q4. U.S. comp sales were negative for the fifth consecutive quarter, dipping 1.7% in Q4. Europe comps were down 1.1%; Asia/Pacific/Middle East/Africa comps fell 4.8%.
Thompson said McDonald’s is responding to the declining sales “with a sense of urgency.” What has the company done so urgently? “We redefined menu choice and personalization with the introduction of the Create Your Taste platform in Australia and the U.S.,” Thompson said. “Beyond our existing menu we are asserting McDonald’s burger leadership by offering greater customization and choice. Not only does Create Your Taste provide new menu news that excites consumers, it has the potential to lift sales of core classics by bringing more customers into our restaurants.” Click here to continue reading Does McDonald’s Have Near-Term Answers?
Five years ago Wendy’s was the first national chain to add a blue-cheese-topped burger when it introduced the Bacon & Blue. Now it updates the idea with the Bacon and Blue on Brioche burger, which joins its menu this week.
The build includes crumbled Wisconsin blue cheese, three strips of applewood-smoked bacon, spring mix and blue-cheese aïoli on the toasted brioche bun Wendy’s has used for most recent premium sandwiches, including the Bacon Portabella Melt, BBQ Pulled pork and Smoked Gouda Chicken.
The a la carte price for this premium burger is $4.99. Marketing support includes light-hearted videos purporting to show Americans’ love affair with blue cheese, including a blue-cheese piñata and blue-cheese-scented candle. The videos will be on Wendy’s Facebook page in February.
After Wendy’s became the first national chain to try blue cheese as a topping, others have followed. Hardee’s has menued Steakhouse Thickburgers with blue cheese and Buffalo Blue Cheese Thickburgers. Red Robin’s Black & Bleu burger is one of its high end Finest burgers.
THE FREAKSHOW, Zombie Burger + Drink Lab, Des Moines, Iowa
An open-face BBQ spice funnel cake bun, corn dog fried bacon, battered cheese curds, Cheddar cheese + buttered-popcorn-flavored nacho cheese sauce
THE BLACK TRUFFLE, Toma-Burger Addiction, Toronto
Kobe Wagyu beef, fresh black truffles, caramelized onion, double-smoked bacon, truffle mayo, Swiss cheese, cremini mushroom on house-made brioche bun. .
WEEKEND SPECIAL, The Rail, Canton, Ohio
A half-pound of All-Ohio beef piled with Asian slaw & a crispy wonton on a bed of kale & wasabi mayo
SPECIAL, Grind Burger Kitchen, Louisville
Burger with slabs of portobello mushroom marinated in burnt-lemon juice and black garlic, Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese Swiss and Thousand Island
FLAMING ICEBERG, Byron, UK
Byron Hot Sauce plus dry-cure bacon, shredded iceberg, crispy fried onions, jalapeños and ranch dressing
PRETZELBACK BURGER, PYT, Philadelphia
A fresh soft pretzel split, buttered and grilled with a juicy beef patty and American cheese topped with fried pickles and house-made Jameson Spicy Mustard
Owner Sam Glynn calls Chomp Kitchen and Drinks in Warren, R.I., a “vehicle to culinary exploration.” He’s not blowing smoke: the menu is interesting, tantalizing and global while still keeping the tone unpretentious and fun. Opened in July 2013, in a small town 20 minutes from Providence, R.I., Chomp already has racked up accolades, including Best Burger/East Bay from Rhode Island Monthly. BurgerBusiness.com spoke with Glynn about the concept.
Like Rhode Island, your reputation is bigger than your place.
The Stack Burger 3.0
We’re small; 38 seats. But we make everything from scratch, including our own bacon, ketchup, burger sauces, hot sauces, you name it. My chef, Jeremy Bradbury, came from fine dining. He arrived before there was paint on the walls so we’ve planned this together from the start. We always wanted to do burgers and sandwiches that would be fresh and unique and that could spice up the culinary scene here. There aren’t a lot of new restaurants in this town.
You opened at the height if the Burger Boom. Did you worry that burgers might have been played out?
I go on your website and lot and read other reports and I don’t think the popularity of burgers is slowing down at all. There’s something comforting about a burger. We position ourselves as “refined comfort food.” So we have burgers with mac and cheese on them and burgers that are 8 inches tall and even, for a while, a burger between two grilled-cheese sandwiches.
We’re in the creative category. We don’t just churn out Quarter Pounders; we spend a lot of time developing each burger. We’ve been open a year and a half and it hasn’t slowed down at all. In fact we’re busier now than when we opened.
So I’m pretty sure burgers are here to stay. I talk to the other independents in town and around and it seems burgers are still the best sellers on menus. We just try to do burgers better than anyone else.
You have this crazy $18 Stack 3.0 burger. I saw that the earlier 2.3 version was a beef patty with American cheese, spicy fried chicken with smoked gouda, smoked BBQ beef, bacon, ranch, onion jam with lettuce and tomato. That just wasn’t enough?
We started with the original Stack burger and over the course of a year and a half, ingredients have changed or we’ve gotten bored with it so we’ve changed it. We’re on the third version of the Stack now. Click here to continue reading A Winner and Still Chomp