Wow. How many different ways can you make a corned-beef-topped burger for St. Patrick’s Day? The answer: A lot. More than a dozen burger bars are tying their March Burger of the Month specials to the upcoming everybody’s-Irish holiday.
Burgerhaus’s The Dubliner
Many of them are inventive or at least attempts to source quality ingredients. One example is The Dubliner, the March Burger of the Month special at Burgerhaus in Indianapolis. The build starts with a custom-ground beef burger patty from Davis Creek Meats and adds roasted sliced potatoes & tomatoes, locally-sourced jowl bacon from Smoking Goose, imported Dubliner cheese, smoky Guinness-reduction sauce, Irish pickled cabbage and scallions, all on a pretzel roll and served with onion rings. Rockin’. Also check out The Lucky Leprechaun Burger at Flip Side in Hudson, Ohio. It’s A 7-oz. grass-fed Ohio-beef burger with house-made corned beef, braised cabbage, Irish Cheddar cheese, Guinness Horseradish mustard sauce, topped with crispy potato.
The Lucky Irish Burger that’s this month’ special at Romers Burger Bar in Vancouver, B.C., is no slouch either. It starts with an organic beef patty flavored with Guinness and whole-grain mustard. It’s seared to perfection and topped with Irish Ham steamed in beer; with melted Dubliner cheese; green apple matchsticks; green onions and whole- grain mustard vinaigrette. This all sits on a brioche bun slathered with Guinness aïoli, wild baby arugula and Vine ripened tomatoes.
Burger-joint operators love to go their own ways, which is usually away from the holiday crowds. Among the burger bars that opted to ignore St. Paddy’s is the 5 Napkin chain, which is offering a good-looking Pimento Burger made with pimento cheese, grilled onion, bacon and jalapeňos. BRGR Bar Seattle is going for heat with an Oaxaca burger (a beef patty topped with pepper-Jack cheese, roasted poblano pepper, pico de gallo and guacamole).
Several places are trying Korean-influenced burgers. One is BGR: The Burger Joint chain’s Korean BBQ Burger (kimchi, cilantro and sriracha and its Prime dry-aged burger, with Korean BBQ underneath). Philly’s PYT’s latest is the Fauxrean Burger: a Korean BBQ marinated beef patty topped with crispy fried kimchi and spicy kalbi sauce.
Finally, I can’t ignore The Sadistic Magician (aka The Papa Shango) from those loose canons at Grill ‘em All in Alhambra, Calif. We’ve all seen a lot of foods pressed into service as burger buns, but using blueberry pancakes as buns is a first for me. Check it out on the list of all March Burger of the Month Specials.
A&B Burgers opened in December 2013 in what seemed an ideal space: the 183-year-old Old Salem Jail in Salem, Mass. In May, just five months in, owners Tom Holland and Amy Butler changed it from counter service to full service. Then, last month, it announced it will pack up and move to neighboring Beverly, Mass., this summer. Some locals weren’t happy, making the decision even tougher. BurgerBusiness.com spoke with Holland about the tipping points.
What’s happened since we last spoke? What made you decide to move?
When we signed the deal here we assumed the final two years of a lease. Then we negotiated a purchase of the building. We put a down payment on it and all. But we put in an opt-out-free clause that as long as we notified them by October we wouldn’t be staying we could get the down payment back and go at the end of the lease. We asked for a time extension and they said fine. The owners have been great.
Being in the historic Salem Jail building sounded like a slam dunk great location.
What were the problems that you convinced to move not buy?
The biggest drawback is that our location is a little out of the downtown area. We’re on the edge of it. And though we’re only one block away from a 300-space municipal parking lot, we had the reputation of having no parking. People would come to the lot but turn the other way. Because of our location they wouldn’t come toward us.
We have five parking spaces out back. For deliveries there’s a driveway to our location that’s an easement. From the beginning we’ve been talking to the city about taking about half the green space [adjacent to the lot] and creating a 13-space municipal lot. We had support but we couldn’t get everybody on the same page by the deadline. Without a guarantee it would go through we just couldn’t invest nearly a million dollars in the building.
We’re very successful in terms of customer traffic. We’ve done well in creating a brand and building a loyal following that we’re very grateful for. But it’s just not enough to support the business without that extra walk-by traffic. We’re missing that “ Oh, there’s A&B Burgers. Let’s go have a burger or a beer before we finish shopping” traffic. Click here to continue reading A&B Burgers Reluctantly Making Its Move
The total number of U.S. restaurants has declined but the quick-service burger segment continues to eke out growth, according to data from The NPD Group’s ReCount research.
Growth of fast-casual burger chains such as Burger 21 keeps the segment expanding.
As of Sept. 30, 2014, there were 630,964 restaurants of all types in the U.S., down 0.7% from the Spring 2014 survey and down about 1% from a year ago. Chain restaurants showed positive growth, increasing 1.1% since Spring 2014 and 1% compared with a year earlier.
“The decline in the total U.S. restaurant count is a reflection of the flat [customer] traffic growth experienced by the foodservice industry in 2014,” according to NPD.
Independent restaurants have not fared as well, falling 2.2% since Spring 2014 to 343,653 total locations now. Over the past year the decline also has been 2.2%. NPD reports that the independent segment was especially hurt by a 3% drop in the number of full-service restaurants (including casual dining, midscale/family dining, and fine dining). Quick-service and fast-casual independents showed no growth.
But all quick-service/fast-casual restaurants taken as a group (both chain and independent) showed a year-over-year increase of 1%. Fast-casual concepts were responsible for most of the gain. “Visits to quick-service restaurants, which represent 79% of total industry traffic, were up 1%, while full-service restaurant traffic, representing 21% of total visits, was down 2% last year,” NPD reports.
But the number of quick-service and fast-casual burger restaurants (both chain and independent) continues to grow, rising 0.8% since Spring 2014 and 0.7% over the past year.
A intellectual-property infringement complaint by London’s Honest Burgers chain against pop-up pizza purveyor Honest Crust has brought the burger chain an unexpectedly negative storm of social-media criticism from people casting it as a corporate bully.
Honest Burgers’ open letter; click to open larger version.
Many tweets have been like this from @Nickajking: “Seems like overkill. The similarities are limited to a single word. Gives me a really negative perception of @honestburgers.”
That stings for partners Dorian Waite, Tom Barton and Phil Eles. It was only four years ago that they were struggling to get together the £7,500 needed to open their first burger bar in the Brixton district of South London. The concept now has nine locations around London and plans for five more this year, thanks to a recently secured £7 million capital infusion from Active Private Investment. But suddenly the well-reviewed brand has been tarnished.
Said @hairingtons: “Didn’t invent the word ‘honest’. Or ‘burger’. Or even the actual burger. So no, it’s not your ‘IP’.
Honest Burgers’ founders have been chastened enough to post an open letter to the haters and those who simply don’t understand trademark law: “Some pretty punchy tweets going against us here tonight which has been really painful to read. 140 characters isn’t really enough to explain ourselves so thought we’d write this in an open letter,” it begins.
Later they explain that “The issue is that, in light of people who have tried to rip us off in the UK and abroad, we had to take steps to protect ourselves by spending a lot of money on the intellectual property rights for the word ‘Honest’ in any restaurant concept. We’re trying to build something really special after all.”
“The simple fact is this_if we don’t defend our IP [intellectual property], we risk losing it, which means open season for everyone and anyone. Those just the rules.”
Twitter battles usually are unwinnable since so many users simply want to gripe and slander. But Honest Burgers is pressing on with its IP stance for now and hoping to win back critics.
On Sunday (March 1), Don Thompson officially steps down as president and CEO of McDonald’s Corp. after two-and-half years. Steve Easterbrook, previously corporate senior executive vice president and global chief brand officer, takes over and mercifully gets to shorten his title.
McDonald’s is leaking customers, not just dollars.
The 10-K annual report McDonald’s Corp. filed with the SEC this week gives a glimpse into some of the challenges that await Easterbrook et al. McDonald’s is losing sales, customers and market share globally. The filing offers few new insights into how it intends to reverse its precarious position.
- Company-operated stores sales were $18.169 billion in 2014, the lowest since 2010. A reduced number of company stores accounts for some of that but only a little: the 6,714 company stores are year-end were only 24 lower than a year ago.
- Franchised-store sales in 2014 were $69.617 billion (lowest since 2011).
- Total U.S. sales were $35.447 billion, down 1.1% from last year. The company employs 420,000 people worldwide, roughly double the global workforce of General Motors.
Will bringing back Chicken Selects Tenders boost sales?
- Oddly, McDonald’s Corp. always had tucked away sales results for Canada, the Caribbean and Central and South America under “Other Countries & Corporate” on its ledger. It’s especially odd now because this mystery category actually saw sales increase by 6.6%. Traffic was down just 1.5%. Why not talk it up?
- Global systemwide sales (company and franchised) were $87.786 billion, down 2%.
- But the sales slide may not be the worst problem. Globally, McDonald’s saw guest counts decline 3.6% (compared with a 1% decline in comp sales). It’s leaking customers more than dollars.
- Customer loss in the U.S. was most dire, with 4.1% transactions in 2014 than in 2013. In Europe, by comparison, customer traffic declined 2.2%.
- Customers have left despite the company’s unmatched marketing strength. Corporate contributions to its advertising cooperatives totaled $808.2 million, plus an additional $98.7 million to cover production costs. These numbers, only slightly higher than in 2013, include costs related to McDonald’s Olympic sponsorship.
Click here to continue reading McDonald’s at the Crossroads. Again.
McDonald’s Corp. soon will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Ray Kroc’s first restaurant, which opened in Des Plaines, Ill., on April 15, 1955. It’s an important date, a cornerstone of its corporate history. It’s why the chain has featured a “1955 Burger” as a limited-time special across Europe since 2010. As a UK ad put it, the 1955 is “A Tribute to Where it All Began.”
Except that just a few months earlier, on Dec. 4, 1954, James McLamore and David R. Edgerton opened their first Burger King on NW 36th Street in Miami.
OK, four months older. Big deal? No, but it enough that Burger King has begun using a new service mark that says simply “Since 1954.” It appeared last week at the bottom of a Burger King Japan press release about availability of fries, hampered by ongoing maritime problems. Burger King quietly trademarked “Since 1954” back in July 2014 (as well as the Spanish “Desde 1954”) when attention was focused on another trademarked phrase, “Be Your Way.”
I expect we’ll see more the brawny burger flipped, along with a another trademarked phrase, “Flame Grilled”—in Burger King marketing and communications, just as I expect we’ll see McDonald’s market the 1955 Burger here soon. But Burger King just wants McDonald’s to know, “Hey. Four months.” Click here to continue reading Monday Meeting: Since When?