Wisconsin Cheese Adds Value

When you turn cheeseburgers 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 here to visit the Wisconsin Cheese Burger page and get the recipe for the Black and Blue Burger shown below!


Visit the Killer Burger Recipe Vault

Looking for burger recipes from Bobby Flay, Jamie Oliver, Umami Burger or Michael Symon’s B Spot? Can’t find a good recipe for Vermont Cheddar Burgers with Warm Maple Ketchup? Visit BurgerBusiness.com’s Killer Burger Recipes vault. _________________

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9 Billion Burgers Served in 2014

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.

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.”

Does McDonald’s Have Near-Term Answers?

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.

McD_create-your-taste-est-2014McDonald’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?

Wendy’s Updates Bacon and Blue Burger

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.
Wendys_Bacon and Blue Crop

McD’s Franchisees Target McCafé, Happy Meals for Cuts

McCafé and Happy Meals are the top candidates McDonald’s franchisees name when asked what should be cut from or simplified on the chain’s menu. Janney Montgomery Scott restaurant analyst Mark Kalinowski’s most recent survey of franchisees led him to lower his estimate of December same-store sales to -2.1%. McDonald’s Corp. will announce December sales and Q4 earnings on Friday. Kalinowski also lowered full-2015 and full-2016 EPS projections by 5¢ each. “Sales decreases are the new norm,” said on operator.

McDonaldsNewHappyMeal350The 30 domestic franchises (representing 198 stores) surveyed said December comps on average were -2.1%. The estimate for January was -1.7% as some said sales had improved a bit. McDonald’s has said it will begin simplifying its menu but some operators expressed frustration at what they see as a too-slow pace. “Significant menu simplification is not happening as far as I can tell,” one operator told Kalinowski. “Any operator could have, and many did, say that this needed to happen two years ago. Everyone who is paying attention, both inside and outside McDonald’s, recognizes this as a problem, but nothing changes.”

What menu items would franchisees eliminate or downsize? Some responses:
“Eliminate the McCafé line. Downsize Happy Meal choices.”

“Downsized? Happy Meals are a chore to ring up with all the options. Perhaps corporate should make a decision on what a Happy Meal is and stop with complicating the choices.”

“Eliminate espresso drinks but keep the rest of McCafé.”

McCafeCoffee“Eliminate all core sandwiches that have other items added, bacon, cheese, etc. and charge for all add-ons. Downsize salads (same as sandwiches, one-size shake, and some McCafé drinks).”

“Eliminate the bottom 10% of menu items measured by unit movement.”

“Eliminate espresso coffee drinks. Downsize Premium McWraps down to one or two. They take so long to make we already hope nobody orders them.”

Several of the operators surveyed said they believe menu simplification could be achieved by allowing customers to do some of the “building.” Said one operator, “Our build charts in the product area are impossible to follow due to their sheer complexity of the builds. We need to stop creating flavors on the menu boards and just let the customer put whatever they want on the burgers with a few popular builds. This increase order-taking time but it will increase our order accuracy.”

“Let’s do more than just talk about it this time,” says another frustrated franchisee.

One Burger Bar’s Burger Breakout

Wannaburger is a neat, very smartly designed burger shop on Queensferry Street in Edinburgh, Scotland. Last year it sold a very respectable 100,000 burgers and they’ve provided a pie chart that breaks out what sold. I find it fascinating.

Wannaburger_ScroogeTwo numbers that stand out first for me are 8% of orders that were plain hamburgers; not even with cheese. Plain cheeseburgers accounted for one of every five burgers sold. Together these “no-frills” burgers were one-quarter of the orders. Add bacon cheeseburgers and plain chicken sandwiches and you’re talking a majority of orders.

All this may also be so at your burger joint, too. I know that Domino’s says 35% of its pizza orders specify plain cheese.

Jon Clemence, Wannaburger managing director, tells BurgerBusiness.com he was drawn to plain burger’s 8% showing. “I guess the fact that the plain hamburger is such a low percentage says something about how important cheese and bacon are to complete people’s burger experience.”

Yes, but Wannaburger offers several very creative limited-time specials during the year. Right now it’s a salute to Scottish poet Robert Burns called The Rabbie. That’s 100% Scotch beef, bread-crumbed haggis, Scottish Cheddar, smoked streaky bacon, grilled onion and barbecue sauce. I guess I’m surprised that specials don’t account for more than 10% of the orders .

With specials, “some work better than others and they are generally a premium price (£4.99 to £5.49),” Clemence says. “The Scrooge for example (double jerk beef, double Swiss, smoked streaky bacon and chipotle slaw for £5.49) sold at over 15% but others have been as low as 6%.”

BurgerBusiness.com devotes a lot of attention to LTOs, specials and over-the-top oddities, I know. But Wannaburger’s pie chart is a good reminder that the quality has to be there in the least-adorned burgers or the specials don’t matter.


Last Week’s Most Intriguing 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 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-Burgeradiction, Toronto Kobe Wagyu beef, fresh black truffles, caramelized onion, double-smoked bacon, truffle mayo, Swiss cheese, cremini mushroom on house-made brioche bun

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 Week, Canton, Ohio A half-pound of All-Ohio beef piled with Asian slaw & a crispy wonton on a bed of kale & wasabi mayo

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

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

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

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

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

Healthy Resolutions are Over; Bacon’s Back

Upscale burgers and bacon keep getting written off as flash-in-the-cast-iron-pan fads. In December 2012, Josh Ozersky wrote in Time that “bacon as a trend is a monster that won’t die, and I can’t understand why.”

The Works' Six Degrees of K'vin Bacon burger

The Works’ Six Degrees of K’vin Bacon Burger

That was two years ago and the trend has only picked up speed since then. According to data from Statista, in 2012 a whopping 19.6% (the largest share of the total) of U.S. households reported having eaten 2 lbs. of bacon in the previous 30 days. That rose to 20.8% in 2013 and 21.6% in 2014. The faddish bacon-flavored lip balms and bacon-studded cupcakes may finally have faded, but bacon’s popularity isn’t diminishing.

The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro understands why. The Canadian chain next week will be rolling out to its 26 locations an array of new reasons why bacon’s back and better than ever. Building on a promotion it ran a year ago, The Works’ “Believe in Baconism II” introduces three specialty burgers, two sides and a shake, all blessed with bacon.

Six Degrees of K’vin Bacon does indeed have bacon six ways: an 8-oz. bacon and beef patty topped with Canadian bacon, smoked bacon, bacon ketchup, bacon-roasted garlic aïoli and bacon sticks, plus lettuce and tomato for $15.31 (prices in Canadian dollars).

An updated favorite from last year is the Getting Piggier With It: the 8-oz. bacon and beef patty with Canadian bacon, Cheddar, smoked bacon, bacon ketchup and crunchy onion strings ($15.47). The When Pigs Fly has a bacon-and-beer-seasoned chicken breast that’s grilled and topped with smoked bacon, house-made bacon jam an onion ring, lettuce and tomato ($15.31).

Arooga's Gouda Bacon Grind burger

Arooga’s Gouda Bacon Grind Burger

On the side are Bacon-Wrapped Wrecking Balls (bacon-wrapped Cheddar-and-potato balls with bacon roasted-garlic aïoli and bacon sticks) ($9.91). For those who one more bacon goodies there are fresh-cut fries covered with bacon seasoning and topped with bacon roasted-garlic aïoli, bacon and green onions ($2.21). To drink? The Bacontella Shake (Nutella blended with smoked bacon and Canadian ice cream and topped with whipped cream and, you betcha, bacon).

The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro has established itself as one of the most inventive burger-focused concepts on either side of the border. Its permanent burger menu includes 50 choices and it LTOs last year included the “Get Stuff’d” stuffed burgers in September and beer-infused burgers last October in addition to the inaugural Baconism menu.

On this side of the border, the nine-unit Arooga’s Grille House & Sports Bar chain based in Harrisburg, Pa., is mounting its own bacon blitz next week by adding a new line of Bacon Grind Burgers: patties that are 65% ground steak and 35% ground bacon (Arooga’s regular burger patty is Wagyu Kobe beef).

The limited-time lineup, starting at $9.99, includes The Original Bacon Grind Cheeseburger (just cheese, lettuce, tomato, red onion and a pickle); The Breakfast Grind Burger (melted American cheese, fried egg, applewood-smoked bacon sandwiched in a Belgian waffle and served with maple syrup); The BBQ Bacon Grind Burger (with house Hickory Smoked Honey barbecue sauce and pepper-Jack cheese); The Bacon Boss Grind Burger (more bacon, house-made chipotle ketchup, mayo and American cheese); The Smoked Gouda Grind Burger (with horseradish mayo, smoked Gouda, applewood-smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion and pickle); The “Signature” Bacon Grind Burger (melted ghost-Jack cheese, guacamole and fried egg); and The Big Man Grind Burger (two Bacon Grind patties; Cheddar, American, Swiss and Provolone cheeses; more bacon; house Cajun Ranch Sauce; lettuce; tomato; red onion and a pickle).

Last year, Arooga’s signed two separate franchise agreements: a 15-unit agreement with the Mohegan Tribe for New England and a three-unit agreement that will move it into Chicago (this summer) and Phoenix.

The independent burger bars are bacon fans, too. This week’s special at Baldwin Street Burger in Whitby, Ont., offers choice of patty with house-cured peameal bacon, apple, field greens, red onion and a maple-Dijon aïoli. There’s blueberry bacon (along with blue cheese, blue Jack, arugula, tomato grilled onion and rémoulade) on the new Royal Blue burger at Eden Burger Bar in Glendale, Calif.

A Winner and Still Chomp

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

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