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This Week’s Most Intriguing Burgers

BK_NZ_BreakfastWhopperIt seems obvious. If Burger King is looking for something special for its “Burgers at Breakfast” initiative, it need look no farther than its New Zealand menu. That’s where the chain has added a Breakfast Whopper, a burger topped with bacon, lettuce, tomato and egg. Easy! It wouldn’t even violate the ongoing BK dictum that new products shouldn’t require new pantry ingredients. Priced at NZD$8.90 (US$7.46), the Breakfast Whopper is sold all day, which is another good idea.McD_Portugal_McPrego2


What intriguing sandwich does McDonald’s have overseas? The McPrego. Back on the menu in Portugal, the awkward-looking sandwich is a steak sandwich on a strange roll. This time it’s offered with mushrooms or an egg.


B&B Junction's special

B&B Junction’s special

Congratulations to Atlanta’s Farm Burger for reminding us all that it’s possible to create a promotional event without a social media overlay. No one has to upload a bad video or make up a silly hashtag to take part in its “Meat Up at the Movies” event. Farm Burger will screen George Motz’s “Hamburger America” followed by a Q&A with Motz. Samples of two burgers featured in the film—the Green Chile Burger and Goober Burger—will be provided during the film. A third (the Butter Burger) will be sampled afterward.


Frankly, fish burgers don’t often look appealing. An exception is the Southern Fried Snapper Burger of the Week at B&B Junction in Winter Park, Fla. It’s fresh local snapper fried golden brown and placed on stone-ground jalapeňo three-cheese grits and topped with a seafood cream sauce.


Honest Burger

Honest Burger

This site featured the Mr. Hyde National Burger Day celebration in the UK earlier this week. But there wasn’t time to spotlight all the interesting burgers created for the party. Burger Meats Bun in Glasgow, Scotland, rolled out one called Double Trouble: a beef patty topped with brisket, Italian Toma Raschera cheese, crispy onions, smoked-garlic mayo and French Fourme D’Ambert cheese. The Honest Burgers chain whipped up a National Burger Day creation with dry-aged beef, chorizo, chimichurri, Spanish Manchego cheese and jalapeňo purée. It will keep it on the menu until September 17.


Tennessee-based regional burger chain Pal’s Sudden Service doesn’t change its menu very often but it always offers creative advertising. So it’s not surprising that the launch of its Lil Philly Cheesesteak Melt (served in a hot dog bun) is backed with a quirky TV spot from agency Creative Energy. Notice the portrait over the fireplace in the background. That’s chain founder Pal Barger. Then notice the squirrel on his shoulder. That’s Pal’s advertising.

UK Celebrates Its National Burger Day

MrHydeBurgerDay_LogoBurger-week festivities and best-burger competitions have become standard civic events in many cities. Burger Week Montreal, one of the largest, has spread to now include Quebec, Vancouver and Winnipeg as well. But the UK steps up a notch today with National Burger Day, a celebration that includes 200 independents and chain locations across England, Scotland and Wales.

Created by “Mr. Hyde,” a hip digital lifestyle daily on Short List magazine’s website,  National Burger Day was inaugurated last year on a much smaller scale. About 100 restaurants participated by discounting one or more burgers and Tweat Up (foodies who connect via Twitter) sponsored a gathering of 10 London burger joints.

Handmade Burger is ready for National Burger Day.

Handmade Burger is ready for National Burger Day.

This year the number of participants—most offering 20% burger discounts—has doubled. Chains participating include Byron, Handmade Burgers and Honest Burgers. The names of some of the indie joints are marvelous. Who wouldn’t patronize Bap & Pickle, Clockjack Oven, The Splendid Sausage Company or Ask for Janice?

Tweat Up’s gathering takes place tonight at the Battersea Power Station, a decommissioned coal-fired power station in South West London. Tickets for the event sold out in hours. Participating London joints and their burgers will be:

  • B.O.B.’s Lobster: B.O.B.’s Burger (Yorkshire Longhorn beef, Cobble Lane cured pancetta, coolea cheese, béarnaise sauce) £5
  • Bleeker St. Burger: Pizza Burger (50-day dry-aged beef patty, melted mozzarella cheese, Nicky’s Marinara Sauce, grated Parmesan, basil mayo and red pepper flakes) £5
  • Byron: Shady (Scottish beef, crispy cheese, pickle relish, American cheese, onion and ketchup) £5
  • Club Gascon: Foie Gras and Summer Truffle Burger (Pan-fried pan foie gras, brioche, truffled cream, baby gem lettuce) £7
  • Dip & Flip: Double Dunk (Beef patty, sliced roast beef, gravy, American cheese, ketchup, French’s mustard, white cabbage slaw, sweet house pickle) £6
  • Dirty Burger: Dirty Swiss (Beef patty, Swiss cheese, tomato, red onion, lettuce and ketchup mayo) £6
  • Disco Bistro: Roller Disco Burger (Dry-aged Dexter beef, bun sauce, mature Cheddar, pickled onions and pineapple bacon jam) £8
  • Hotbox: Smokey Bandit (Dry-aged chuck and rib patty, smoked beef rib, Monterey Jack cheese, chipotle chili & buttermilk slaw, spicy BBQ dripping and chimichurri) £7
  • Le Bun: Le Royale with Cheese Slider (Eight-hour short-rib patty, hickory beef jus, Saint-Maure de Touraine cheese, smoked tomatoes and frisée on brioche) £5
  • Mother Flipper: Smoked BBQ Belly Flipper (Ayrshire Black Angus beef, hot smoked rare breed pork belly, cherry BBQ glaze, Gouda and crispy shallots) £6
  • Roti Chai: Toddy Shop Slider (Dry-aged beef, Kerala five spice, Toddy Shop Sauce, mature Cheddar, kasundi mustard, pickles and bhel puri) £5
  • Slider Bar: Short Rib Slider (Aged beef patty, 10-hour roast chipotle beef short rib, bone marrow & habanero salsa, American cheese and chipotle ketchup) £5

Burger King, Tim Hortons Talk Merger

Burger King Worldwide has confirmed talks to acquire Canadian chain Tim Hortons. The combined entity would be headquartered in Canada as a tax-reducing move. Please see the earlier post, “Tim Hortons and QSRs’ New Reality” here. Burger King’s announcement follows:

BK_LogoTimHortons_LogoOAKVILLE, ON, and MIAMI, FL, August 24, 2014 – In response to media reports, Tim Hortons Inc. (THI: TSX; NYSE) and Burger King Worldwide Inc. (BKW: NYSE) today confirmed that they are in discussions regarding the potential creation of a global leader in the quick service restaurant business. The new publicly- listed company would be headquartered in Canada, the largest market of the combined company.

3G Capital, the majority owner of Burger King, will continue to own the majority of the shares of the new company on a pro forma basis, with the remainder held by existing shareholders of Tim Hortons and Burger King. 3G Capital and its affiliates have a demonstrated track record of managing international expansion of iconic brands around the globe.

Within this new entity, Tim Hortons and Burger King would operate as standalone brands, while benefiting from shared corporate services, best practices and global scale and reach. A key driver of these discussions is the potential to leverage Burger King’s worldwide footprint and experience in global development to accelerate Tim Hortons growth in international markets.

The new company would be the world’s third-largest quick service restaurant company, with approximately $22 billion in system sales and over 18,000 restaurants in 100 countries worldwide. Tim Hortons and Burger King each have strong franchisee networks and iconic brands that are loved by their respective consumers. Any transaction will be structured to preserve these relationships and deepen the connections each brand has with its guests, franchisees, employees and communities.

The transaction remains subject to negotiation of definitive agreements. There can be no assurance that any agreement will be reached or that a transaction will be consummated.

Tim Hortons and Burger King do not intend to comment on this matter further unless and until a transaction is agreed or discussions are discontinued, and specifically disclaim any obligation to provide further updates to the market.

McDonald’s Names New U.S. President

Mike Andres

Mike Andres

McDonald’s Corp. today announced that McDonald’s USA President Jeff Stratton will retire effective Oct. 15, 2014, and be replaced by Mike Andres.

The change comes not even two years after Stratton assumed the post in November 2012, displacing longtime executive Jan Fields. Since then, McDonald’s has posted a series of disappointing quarterly reports, including Q2 for the current fiscal year. The company said same-store sales for July were down 3.2%, the worst in years.

“When I tapped Jeff to assume the role of McDonald’s USA president nearly two years ago, I asked him to lay the foundation for future growth in the U.S. market,” said McDonald’s President-CEO Don Thompson. “No one has worked more tirelessly to do that for this brand than Jeff. We are deeply grateful for his years of leadership and service, and wish him and his family all of the best.”

Andres, who most recently served as chairman and CEO of the Logan’s Roadhouse chain, also will oversee the Canadian market in his new role at McDonald’s Corp.

Andres began his McDonald’s career as manager for his family-owned McDonald’s in Northern California. He spent 30 years with company, beginning in marketing and then operations and development before becoming regional VP and SVP. Andres was president and CEO of Boston Market from 2001 to 2007, while it was a McDonald’s subsidiary. From 2010 to 2012, Andres served as president of McDonald’s Central Division in the U.S.

Bad Buzz Doesn’t Hurt McBusiness

BuzzChartIt’s a familiar story: People say they don’t think much of McDonald’s, but when it’s time to grab a burger, more people head for the Golden Arches than other options. So YouGov BrandIndex’s tracking of consumer perceptions of major brands finds the Buzz score for McDonald’s sliding even while it maintains its solid advantage when consumers are asked where they eat.

For this research, 18,000 fast-food eaters were interviewed with a margin of error of +/-3.5%. Respondents were asked, “If you’ve heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?” McDonald’s, which recently reported its worst quarterly sales performance in a decade, saw its consumer perception hit the lowest point in four years. Since May its Buzz score has declined from 13 to the current 2. Chatter about tainted meat in China, unhappy minimum-wage workers, disgruntled franchisees and a Happy Meal character that supposedly frightens American children may have taken a toll on its brand image this summer.

But Wendy’s has seen consumer perception slide, too. In the past two weeks its Buzz score as slid from 21 to 15. Could awkward TV commercials with the beloved “Red” character singing and strumming a guitar have caused the decline? You’d think the return of the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger would have more of a halo effect on the brand.

Now within shouting distance of Wendy’s is Burger King, whose Buzz score jumped from 9 at the beginning of the month to 13. Were consumers that happy about the demise of Satisfries and the arrival of Chicken Fries?

But ask “Have you purchased from these brands in the past 30 days?” and the results are all different. McDonald’s still hovers around the 50% mark despite the 1.5% decline in Q2 same-store sales.  Burger King hit 30% earlier this month but has slid since then. Wendy’s stays in the low 20s. It isn’t getting easier reading consumers minds.

Wendy’s Goes Gouda; McDs Tries Cheddar Melt

Wendy’s new Smoked Gouda Chicken on Brioche sandwich is the latest example of quick-service burger calling on cheeses as well as upscale buns to raise consumer perception of their products.

Wendy's Smoked Gouda Chicken on Brioche

Wendy’s Smoked Gouda Chicken on Brioche

The premium-price ($4.79) sandwich continues Wendy’s menu skew toward chicken but breaks it away from Asiago, which has been its go-to cheese in the recent past. The build is lightly breaded chicken breast topped with sliced red onions, spring mix, creamy Dijon aïoli, caramelized onion sauce made from puréed caramelized onions and double-smoked Gouda cheese.

“At Wendy’s, we understand our customers are seeking an elevated culinary experience through specialty and on-trend ingredients like natural cheeses and premium, artisan breads, all at a quick-service price, “Liz Geraghty, Wendy’s Vice President, Brand Marketing, said in a release announcing the Smoked Gouda Chicken on Brioche arrival.

It follows the return of the Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger (melted Cheddar) and Pretzel Pub Chicken (Muenster cheese) to Wendy’s menu. Before that a variety of sandwiches—including the Tuscan Chicken on Ciabatta, Ciabatta Bacon Cheeseburger and Asiago Ranch Chicken Club—featured Asiago cheese.McD_CheddarMelt

McDonald’s favorite cheese is white Cheddar, which is found on both its current featured burgers: the $2 Jalapeňo Double and Bacon Clubhouse that it has been relentlessly pushing since March.

In selected markets, McDonald’s is testing the residual popularity of the Cheddar Melt, a quarter-pound burger with onions and melted cheese that it has had on its menu occasionally in the past but not in the past six or seven years, as far as I can tell. Merchandised as “Our Original Cheddar Melt,” it’s priced at $3.49 ($5.40 for a combo). McDonald’s tests many menu options so there’s no guarantee this one’s headed for the big leagues.

And GrubGrade reports McDonald’s is testing three-piece Mozzarella Sticks snacks in some markets.

Whataburger also had brought back a cheesy favorite, returning the Green Chile Double Burger to its menu. This has not only double beef patties but also double cheese. Whataburger follows the two-cheese trend by putting Monterey Jack and American cheese on the burger. Culver’s did the same with its recent Pepper Grinder Pub Burger, topped with Wisconsin Cheddar and Swiss.

UK Menus Continue to Import American Fare

Burgers remain the No.1 main-course dish on British menus, but their popularity is slipping, researcher Horizons reports. Some 17% fewer dishes on menus featured burgers in the June 2014 Menurama survey than a year ago. But that dip is not the result of Britons having tired of American food.

On trend: London's Bubbledogs features a hot dog topped with mac 'n' cheese.

On trend: London’s Bubbledogs features a hot dog topped with mac ‘n’ cheese.

Nothing’s hotter than hot dogs, appearing on 86% more British menus than they did a year ago. Close behind are pork ribs, the second biggest riser at 15%.

Not just American dishes but also American names as implied provenance are appearing on more menus. “Examples include Chicken Louisiana Skins and New Yorker Crunchy Salad at Frankie and Benny’s, New Yorker on Rye at Pret A Manger and Slow Roasted Pulled Pork Denver Fries at Best Western,” Horizons reports.

Other Americans imports new to British menus are salted caramel and flat iron steak. “Non-existent in Summer 2010, salted caramel now appears in 37 dishes, growing 12% in popularity year-on-year.”

“We are seeing a high level of innovation on menus,” said Nicola Knight, Horizons’ director of services. “Many of the ideas are coming from the U.S., but street food and ethnic flavors are also influencing menus. Operators are also working hard at providing customers with something new, often by putting a twist on old favorites.”

Examples of old-favorites refreshed with new toppings Crayfish Mac ‘N’ Cheese at the Pitcher & Piano chain and the Revolution bars’ Fennel Sausage Mac ‘N’ Cheese. Japanese, Middle Eastern and Korean dishes and influences are popping up on pub menus. Street foods increasing appearances on menus include burritos. Shareable dishes such as sliders are up 64% in menu appearances since summer 2013.

McDonald’s Plans McCafé Retail Rollout in 2015

McDonald’s Corp. will announce today that its long-awaited, full-tilt entrance into the $11 billion-plus U.S. retail coffee market will take place early next year when it rolls out McCafé coffee in ground, whole-bean and single-cup forms through a partnership with Kraft.

Premium Roast 12 oz“We think this will increase the awareness of the McCafé brand beyond its current in-restaurant strength and that will encourage more people to try it. I think it allows us to tap into that very large base of coffee drinkers who now make their coffee at home. This will give us access to them as well,” Greg Watson, senior VP, McDonald’s U.S. Menu Innovation told

Retail coffee is hardly an inconsequential market. Data from Statista shows that the average American adult spent $21.32 a week on coffee in 2013. Packaged Facts estimates that 77% of the market ($37 billion) is coffee consumed at foodservice. That leaves 23% or an $11.2 billion market for coffee sold at retail. McDonald’s could use a nice chunk of that market.

Kraft has “been a wonderful partner in this process. They bring deep coffee expertise and a great distribution network and manufacturing capabilities,” Watson said. “It’s a strong marriage between the two brands.” McDonald’s gave away McCafé coffee over a two-week period ended April 13 this year to increase awareness and trial and to blunt Taco Bell’s introduction of a breakfast menu.

In Oct. 2012 was the first to report that McDonald’s had trademarked its McCafé name for whole bean and ground coffee. It began selling McCafé coffee in Canada in November 2012. Earlier this year, McDonald’s began testing the bagged coffee at a few supermarkets.

Packaged in 12-oz. bags, McCafé will be offered ground in Premium Roast, Breakfast Blend, French Roast, Colombian, Premium Roast Decaf and French Vanilla and Hazelnut plus a French Roast Whole Bean. Watson said he expects pricing to be roughly the same  as the $7.29 for a 12-oz. bag at which it was sold in the test markets.

Single-Cup (pod) coffee will be offered in Premium Roast, French Roast and Premium Roast Decaf varieties. Mintel reports U.S. consumers bought $3.1 billion worth of coffee pods in 2013, compared with $132 million in 2008. One-quarter of Americans now own single-serve brewing systems such as the Keurig. Other foodservice brands—including Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme—already market their coffee in pods as well as ground. Click here to continue reading McDonald’s Plans McCafé Retail Rollout in 2015