Another exotic burger is on its way from Burger King Japan, the folks whose current holiday offers are the Premium Berry Burger—topped with a sauce of cranberries, blueberries and red wine—and the Mush’nCheese with mushrooms.
But arriving on Jan.1, 2015, will be the Beef Fondue and Chicken Fondue: two sandwiches that are meant to be dipped in warm cheese fondue (made with a touch of white wine). Or, for those who don’t mind get their fingers sloppy, the fondue can be drizzled on top of the burger as shown in the photo below.
Both are limited-time offers to kick off 2015. Beef Fondue will be priced at ¥690 (US$5.76); Chicken Fondue is ¥450 ($3.76).
That’s cheap compared with the Christmas specials at Burger King Japan. The King Turkey Party Set has two turkey drumsticks, an order of chicken fingers, onion rings, fries and two hash brown patties. All that is ¥2,300 (US$19.22). Or go bigger and swap out the chicken fingers for a chicken salad for ¥2,700 (US$22.56).
Kooper Tavern’s Turducken
After October’s Oktoberfest Burger specials and November’s surfeit of turkey burger of the month specials, I looked forward to December and a return to freewheeling Burger of the Month specials. Turns out there are a few Christmas-theme burgers on the list from outside the U.S., such as the cleverly named Bah-Hum Burger at Cannibal Café in Vancouver; a Christmas Burger at Bronx Burger Bar in Copenhagen; an Xmas Burger from MarienBurger in Berlin; and the Santa’s Little Helper at Atomic Burger in Oxford, England. The best domestic holiday entry is the Seussian Roast Beast Burger at Blue Moon Burgers in Seattle. Runner-up is the Jingle the Bell Burger at Burger Bar in Amarillo that’s decked out in red pepper and green chilies.
Blue Moon’s Roast Beast Burger
But I wasn’t ready for three—yes, three—separate takes on the fabled Terducken Burger. The Burger 21 chain stuffs a turkey burger stuffed with rosemary chicken inside of duck. At Burger Bar Chicago, the burger has duck bacon, dried-cherry bourbon mustard sauce, Saint Andre cheese and arugula, with an option for foie gras at additional cost. Kooper’s Tavern in Baltimore goes elegant with ground turkey and duck, topped with an egg, served with country-style gravy, and cranberry jam spread on buttermilk biscuit.
Scan the list of December’s Burger of the Month specials and you’ll see the usual burger brilliance back in business. Don’t miss BRGR’s Button Buster, Buckeye Beer Engine’s Decemburger, Flipdaddy’s Sit-n-Spin Burger, Grill’em All’s Manowar, Grub Burger Bar’s Sgt. Peppercorn or The Oinkster’s Holiday Pork Burger. There’s a present for your menu in here.
What will be hot in 2015 is pretty much just what has been trendy in the U.S. for the past few years. The National Restaurant Association’s annual “What’s Hot” list, based on a survey of nearly 1,300 professional chefs in the American Culinary Federation spotlights some familiar ideas.
Artisan cheeses, branded beef and house-made pickles are all trendy.
This year’s top five food trends are:
- Locally sourced meats and seafood
- Locally grown produce
- Environmental sustainability
- Healthful kids meals
- Natural ingredients/minimally processed food
The first four trends carry over from last year—indeed from the last several years—but gluten-free cuisine, last year’s No. 5, mercifully slips to No. 12 this year. Missing from this year’s Top 20 are “Nose-to-tail, root-to-stalk cooking,” which was No. 12 last year but dropped 10 percentage points. Also absent are “Half portions/smaller portions for a smaller price” (No. 20 last year) and “Grazing” (No. 17).
Of interest to burger bars is that “Artisan cheeses” joins the Top 20 trends this year (at No. 20). That’s good news if, as forecast here, 2015 is going to be the Year of the Cheeseburger. “New cuts of meat”—probably the less expensive ones—is a Top 20 trend this year (joining the list at No. 6). Thanks to a 9-percentage-point increase, Grass-fed beef debuts this year on the Main Dishes/Center of the Plate list, where “New cuts” is second only to the “locally sourced meats” in trend strength.
Mini burgers and sliders are “out” according to 56% of the chefs polled. I argued in a post in June that sliders had made a “Return from Culinary Exile” and I’ll stand by that. Look at any bar menu and see if mini burgers are passé.
Other trends of note include “House-made/artisan pickles,” which was included on BurgerBusiness.com’s “Five Burger Trends to watch in 2015” list last month. Operators who list the name of their beef supplier on their menus will be pleased to see that “Farm/estate branded items” remains a strong trend. And “House-made condiments,” increasingly popular at burger bars, joins the list at No. 40.
What’s losing strength? Current culinary darling Korean cuisine is declining according to the ACF chefs. House-made soft drinks, which seemed to be coming on strong, are down 8 percentage points. Kale salads and bruschetta each dropped 10 points.
The Yumbo Hot Ham & Cheese Sandwich came off the Burger King menu 40 years ago, before most of its core audience was born. But the chain is reviving the sandwich beginning Dec. 2, saying in a release that it expects the item “will bring back memories for loyal guests.”
As before, the sandwich combines slices of Black Forest ham and melted American cheese, but lettuce and mayo and a hoagie bun have been added for the return engagement. The Yumbo has a suggested menu price of $3.69 and it will join Burger King’s “2 for $5” menu.
The Yumbo’s blast-from-the-past style carries over to marketing: Burger King will—for 48 hours—take its Facebook page back to analog days: i.e. instead of being online, Burger King can be reached during that time at 1-844-BK-YUMBO for “likes” on the new sandwich and other comments.
Eric Hirschhorn, chief marketing officer, North America, Burger King Corp., says the decision to bring back the Yumbo Hot Ham & Cheese was “100% driven by the passion of our guests” and not a reaction to higher beef prices. “Our franchisees came to us after years of hearing requests” for the sandwich and lobbied for its return, he told BurgerBusiness.com in an interview. “There is a lot of nostalgia around the brand and these classic sandwiches, and we’re also excited to introduce it to new generations.
Burger King might bring other menu items back in the future, but Hirschhorn said it will not be doing a steady procession of throw-back sandwiches.
The question of whether there’s room for still more burger restaurants keeps being asked. And the answer continues to come in the form of second, third or tenth locations for popular burger concepts. Burger 21, BurgerFi, Elevation Burger, Habit Burger and many others continue to expand: We’ve spotlighted 50 growth concepts over the past four years.
Burger-menu restaurants continue to be created and once established continue to multiply. Listed here are 15 such growing brands that bear watching next year. Some, such as Wahlburgers, likely are familiar, but others, including Boon Burger Café, likely aren’t but soon may be. These concepts exemplify the diversity in style that keeps the burger category of the restaurant business innovative and robust.
Bachi Burger, Las Vegas
After opening a second Vegas location, Bachi has gone to Los Angeles for its third unit. Bachi—short for hibachi—puts an Asian spin on its food. The Shogun Burger is Wagyu beef and unagi with pan-seared foie gras, poached Asian pear, miso butter and Yamamomo peach. Chef’s Specials include Oxtail Chili Cheese Fries.
Boon Burger Cafe, Winnipeg, Canada
A vegan burger bar? How’s that going to work? No doubt it had its skeptics, but Michael Valiant’s animal-free, plant-based menu won converts. A second location opened in Winnipeg and now a third—in Barrie, Ontario—is open. Boon boasts 14 meat-free burgers made with one of four non-meat patties it makes. The grilled patty is made with cremini mushrooms, brown rice, onion, garlic, lemon juice, organic tofu and oats, seasoned with basil, oregano, salt and coarse black pepper.
Boston Burger Company, Boston
Bringing great burgers to the intelligentsia, Boston Burger Company’s third location will be in Cambridge, Mass. It’s famed for its house salsa, which is sold at retailers across Boston, but its half-pound Angus burgers also are revered (a little Boston humor).
BRGR goes where the burger lovers are. It just opened its third full-service location in Pittsburgh; it operates a popular concession at PNC Park; and it has a food truck taking burgers to the hungry. Signature build The BRGR is a half-pound of dry-aged prime beef with pickled red onion, arugula, creamy blue cheese and oven-roasted tomatoes.
The Burger’s Priest, Toronto
There are so many fast-growing Canadian chains—including The Works, Big Smoke and South St. Burger—that you might not notice that Burger’s Priest’s new location at Stone Road Mall is its seventh in the city. A self-described “Classic American Cheeseburger Joint,” it would fare well here if it decides to look south.
Citizen Burger Bar, Charlottesville, Va.
The full-service restaurant opened in 2012 in center-city Charlottesville. Now it’s heading north, across the Potomac from D.C., to Clarendon, Va., for a second location. Citizen will continue its pledge to source as many ingredients—including grass-fed beef—from Virginia farms as possible. Click here to continue reading 15 Burger Concepts to Watch in ’15
Thanksgiving week is turkey burgers’ equivalent of birthdays: It’s when they get to be the center of attention and appreciated for a few days before they go back to being ignored.
Zinburger’s Thanksgiving Burger
Like a lot of burger concepts, the Zinburger chain nine East Coast locations offers a special Thanksgiving Burger this week, and it looks to be a fine one: A freshly ground turkey patty with hearts of palm stuffing, cranberry sauce, mayo and shredded lettuce.
But at Zinburger, the turkey burger doesn’t hide unnoticed and unloved at the bottom of the menu during the rest of the year. Year-round the chin menus a deceptively simple turkey burger that for the past two year has been one of its top sellers, more popular than any of the three chicken burgers, the veggie burger or the ahi sandwich.
“As with any good burger, the key is the quality of the meat and letting that shine through,” says Zinburger Executive Chef David Maini. “We use fresh breast meat that we grind in-house. We sear it quickly to lock in juices, cook it through and then keep it simple.”
Burger 21′s Decadent Turducken Burger
The build includes Swiss cheese, lettuce, mayo and sprouts. It’s a juicy, appealing burger that sells on its own, Maini says, not as an alternative to beef or anything else. Its popularity is “across the board” and defined by gender or age group, he says.
Earlier this month, BurgerBusiness.com compiled “21 Thanksgiving Burger Specials,” but in addition to Zinburger’s entry there are a few others that merit attention for audacity if not always culinary acumen.
Hopdoddy’s Thanksgiving on a Bun
The Burger 21 chain is tackling a legend. The Decadent Turducken Burger features a hand-formed turkey burger stuffed with a blend of rosemary chicken inside of duck. It tops this with melted Brie and house-made cherry, cranberry and red apple chutney.
Zombie Burger + Drink Lab in Des Moines, Iowa, can be counted on to offer something special and it doesn’t disappoint. The Thankskilling tops a beef patty with smoked pulled turkey, mashed potato croquette, turkey gravy, fried onion strings and sage stuffing. Still hungry? Try the special Sweet Potato Shake.
Finally, Hopdoddy Burger Bar in Texas, Arizona and now Colorado is taking the prize for verticality with the Thanksgiving on a Bun. Neatly stacked are an all-natural turkey patty, sage pesto, jalapeňo cornbread stuffing, house-made ginger-cranberry chutney, Gouda cheese and, why not, bacon Brussels sprouts salad.
By Monday, McDonald’s will have discovered the app that will best digitalize the restaurant experience and engage Millennials.
That’s the goal, at least, of McDonald’s three-day Hackathon—organized by BeMyApp—being conducted today through Sunday (Nov. 23) in London. “If you are a developer, designer, startup-er, student or just passionate about new technology, register to come and be part of reinventing the restaurant digital experience in just 48 hours,” according to the event’s site, which invites participants to bring pajamas and sleeping bags.
The goal is for participants to work together to create “an innovative idea related to engaging digital in the McDonald’s restaurant experience.” The site offers these app suggestions: “How do you keep the McDonald’s Millennial customers after they leave the restaurant?” “How do you reward our key Millennial customers? How do you incentivize them to keep coming back without offering discounts, coupons o promotions?”
McDonald’s explains how to use Apple Pay.
A McDonald’s spokesperson told Marketing magazine that the Hackathon is intended “to involve our customers, experts and the wider public in our innovation processes, and specifically around digitalising the restaurant experience. The restaurant is the home of our brand and the physical experience we have there is key to how our customers engage with and love our brand.”
McDonald’s has made it clear through hiring and resource allocation that it intends to be the technology leader in the restaurant business. It named Atif Rafiq its first Chief Digital Officer and set up an office in San Francisco to work with tech giants. The chain recently partnered with Apple Pay for payments at both the counter and drive-thru.
During its Q3 conference call last month, President-CEO Don Thompson said the company intends redirect nearly $100 million to long-term growth initiatives such as its digital programs and “Experience of the Future,” which he said would involve broad, digital engagement elements.
A McDonald’s app is already under development. “We did a major test in Australia to look at the actual global application what we call the global app, which is built upon our new-path technology system and allows us to continue to add on different applications to support various needs from pay and order to other things such as music,” Thompson said.
“That global app will be launched in 2015 with some of the promotional offers in the U.S. and we will continue expanding the already established mobile applications that we have in some of the markets outside of the U.S.”
Rock Bottom Brewery & Restaurant this week became the latest casual-dining chain to rediscover that highly customizable, moderately priced menu favorite, the burger.
The chain’s new “#RBurgerLove” menu includes six builds:
Rock Bottom’s Smokin Jalapeno Burger
- Ale Yeah Burger: A Certified Angus Beef (CAB) patty basted with house ale and served with sautéed poblano peppers, lettuce, tomato and jalapeño cream cheese spread on a buttery toasted brioche bun ($12.95, although all prices may vary by market).
- Chili Cheddar Burger: House-made beef brisket chili on a CAB patty with two helpings of sharp Cheddar cheese and crispy friend onion strings; served on a grilled onion bun ($12.95).
- Smokin Jalapeño Burger: A CAB patty with fresh jalapeños, jalapeño butter, pepper-Jack cheese and chipotle mayo; served on with lettuce on the toasted brioche bun ($11.95)
- Bison Prairie Burger: A seasoned bison patty smash-griddled and topped with sautéed poblano peppers and mushroom, pepper-Jack cheese, pico de gallo and chipotle mayo on the toasted brioche bun ($13.95)
- Smashed & Stacked: Two CAB patties griddle-fried and then stacked with Rock Bottom signature pub sauce, shaved pickles and Cheddar; served on the toasted brioche bun ($11.95).
- BBQ Brisket Stuffed Burger: BBQ beef brisket shredded and stuffed into a premium beef patty, topped with smoked Gouda cheese, lettuce and tomato; served on a grilled onion bun ($13.95). Click here to continue reading Casual Dining’s Cyclical Burger Love