Every day is a good day for a burger, of course, but today is National Cheeseburger Day. Like my birthday, this isn’t being celebrated universally, but many burger joints have special plans to honor the day. Among them:
Bar 145′s 10-pounder
Bar 145 in Toledo, Ohio, will serve a 10-lb. Americana Burger that serves 20 to 25. Advance orders were required. For those with just one friend, Bar 145 also offers a buy-one-get-one on its Stack Your Own burgers.
The Fuddruckers chain has a challenge, too: Finish its 3–lb. burger and 1–lb. side of fries (with bottomless Coke, of course) in one hour and you’ll receive two free meals, one free t-shirt and “undeniable respect.”
Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar locations celebrate with a special $8 Combo: 1/3-lb. Backyard Burger, fries with Bad Daddy’s Sauce and a small Apple Pie Shake. As a special recognition of the day, Bad Daddy’s has agreed to share the recipe for its Buttermilk Fried Bacon with BurgerBusiness.com readers. Get it here.
Wayback’s Triple Triple
The 80-location Wayback Burgers chain hosts its Triple Triple Burger Eating Contest. That’s its famous nine-patty burger. Whichever customer polishes off its famous nine-patty burger fastest today wins $3,330.
Chicago’s Rockit Bar & Grill is serving a special Double Black Angus burger with Gouda, Matilda Beer Mustard and bacon sauerkraut on a pretzel bun, served with house-made Yukon fries and curry ketchup for $13. Sister restaurant Botttlefork serves its signature Bottlefork Burger with fries and a house-made soda for $20.
Classic Cheeseburgers are just $5 all day at Philadelphia’s PYT. Add a PBR for just $1. While you’re there, you also might want to sample PYT’s new Bacon Cheeseburger D’oh Nut. That’s a warm glazed donut filled with delicious bacon cheeseburger and topped with bacon sprinkles. Click here to continue reading It’s National Cheeseburger Day: Celebrate Wisely
Last October, BurgerBusiness.com interviewed Mike Mariola, an Ohio restaurateur who had opened a burger bar, The Rail, in Fairlawn, Ohio, and was working on two more locations (north Olmsted and Canton). Those three restaurants now are open and humming and The Rail on September 8 launched its first TV advertising.
The Rail is all about local sourcing and that strategy is featured in its three 30-second spots, especially the burger commercial. It opens with The Rail’s half-pound Local Yokel burger—labeled a “100% Ohio-Sourced Burger”—and works backward, deconstructing the burger and explaining the provenance of each ingredient. “Buns baked in Cuyahoga County.” “Bacon cured in Erie County.” “Eggs laid in Holmes County.” “Cheese cultured in Geauga County.” “Beef grown in Holmes County.” It closes with the concept’s “Where burgers come from” logo, having explained just that.
A beer spot promotes The Rail’s dedication to local beers, pouring 24 Ohio craft beers at the North Olmsted and Canton locations; 12 at the Fairlawn/Akron unit. That signature Nutella Crunch milk shake is made with milk and ice cream from Wayne County, as explained by the third commercial.
The spots air on cable stations in Akron, Canton and North Olmsted. Credits go to Los Angeles-based branding firm Hoofcase; Annie Yoder, who provided music; and production company Jugoe.
Umami Burger opens its first Chicago location on September 18, the 24th unit in what is quietly becoming a chain to contend with nationally and not just on the West Coast. The media mantra now is that the burger segment is losing customers, especially Millennials, to options like Chipotle, but concepts such as Umami Burger—with high-quality food, moderate pricing, sophisticated atmosphere, full bar and casual (not fast casual) service—can bring those consumers back to the burger category.
Paul Clayton, the former Burger King and Jamba Juice exec who joined Umami in July as its CEO, says there’s easily opportunity for Umami Burger to ultimately have 150 U.S. locations. After all, it has 24 units now but has barely begun expansion outside California. Two units are open in New York City; a third should debut by year-end. After that he sees the chain extending near-term to Boston; Washington, D.C.; and possibly Philadelphia. But the goal isn’t to see how many markets it can enter, Clayton says. Rather, Umami wants to enter a market and build enough units to establish a meaningful presence before moving attention on. Chicago—city and suburbs—could handle at least five units and perhaps as many as 15, says Clayton.
Umami’s Calabrese Burger for Chicago
The expansion strategy as it stands now doesn’t include franchising, at least not domestically. If Clayton and Adam Fleischman—the founder who continues as Umami Restaurant Group chairman—take the Umamibrand overseas, franchise partnerships might be possible. Clayton says Umami is at a point where the brand is evolving “from an entrepreneurial phase to being a meaningful restaurant company.” But he says that doesn’t mean it’s considering an IPO. That’s not a topic on the table, he says.
The core Umami menu includes a selection of classic burgers, including The Original (with a Parmesan crisp, shiitake mushroom, roasted tomato, caramelized onion and house ketchup) and the double patty B.U.B. (with bacon, beer Cheddar, minced onion, pickles, mustard, house ketchup on a three-part bun). Additionally, each location features an exclusive build. In the Chicago location in the Wicker Park neighborhood, the special is the Calabrese Burger (calabrese sausage patty, truffle cheese fondue and Chicago-style giardiniera on the chain’s signature bun).
Also available, but not listed on the menu, are Umami’s “secret” cheesy tots appetizers, which are well worth remembering and ordering.
Umami also has offered an occasional “Artist Series” burger developed in conjunction with a performer or chef. The most recent was the Akron Burger, $1 from each of which sold went to The Black Keys’ Alfred McMoore Memorial Endowment Fund of The Akron Community Foundation. The next, available Sept. 23, 2014, is The Samberger by comic actor Andy Samberg benefitting The Center for Early Intervention on Deafness (CEID) in Berkeley, Calif. It will feature Umami Burger’s signature beef patty topped with sport peppers, roasted tomatoes, chopped Umami dill pickles, kombu relish, roasted garlic aïoli, poppy seeds and yellow mustard. Some in the series have sold better than others and Clayton says he wants these specials and their charity tie-ins to get a brighter spotlight so they’re not lost in the menu mix.
Johnny Rockets announced a sweeping plan to reimagine itself with four new prototypes operating under the Johnny Rockets Route 66 name. Each is different, including a drive-in-movie concept, a drive-thru concept (with breakfast menu), a food truck and a mobile pop-up restaurant. Some of the first of these prototypes could debut by year-end.
Through a strategic partnership with USA Drive-Ins LLC, a film production and distribution company, Johnny Rockets said it expects to have the Route 66 drive-in concept as the food option at 200 new drive-in movie locations. The chain said the drive-ins will all present “family-friendly films and embody a nostalgic, all-American experience.”
The chain envisions the drive-thru version of the Route 66 brand as ideal for “high volume, regional travel plazas located off major freeways and highways.” The size can range from 1,800 square feet to 3,300 square feet.
“The drive-thru option will potentially increase our market share and overall sales, improving the economic model of our restaurant franchise,” James Walker, chief development officer of Johnny Rockets, said in a release. “Not only will these in-town and travel center locations offer high-quality food, including a breakfast menu, but they will also provide the Johnny Rockets experience through digital projections and signage. Guests can enjoy Johnny Rockets’ one-of-a-kind atmosphere from the comfort of their vehicles.”
The pop-up Route 66 also will be part of the USA Drive-Ins partnership. The combination theater-and-mobile-restaurant prototype will “create a dinner-and- movie combination in a myriad of venues,” Johnny Rockets said. The Route 66 food trucks will be available for current Johnny Rockets operators to buy and use for catering or event marketing.
Johnny Rockets has a history of fostering new ideas and designs and has been more active in rethinking its operations since it was acquired by Sun Capital Partners last year. In March, the chain bean offering a Build-Your-Own burger option.
Canada’s Le Burger Week continues to grow. In its inaugural year in 2012, 30 restaurants in Montreal took part. Last year it expanded to include Quebec City and Winnipeg. This year’s event, held September 1-7, involved 180 burgers across six Canadian cities. As an outreach to stimulate the restaurant business there, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, was included this year as well.
Jukebox Burgers’ Southern Comfort
In each city, diners voted for their favorite burgers, which evidence delightful diversity. As a source of burger ideas for operators everywhere, the Le Burger Week top vote getters are saluted below.
Le Gourmet Burger: #ShrinersBurger (Beef burger grilled on wood charcoal topped with a mushroom & caramelized onion cheese fondue, spicy chipotle and smoked BBQ sauces, garnished with fresh cilantro. $1 from each #ShrinersBurger sold went to the Shriners Hospital for kids)
Jukebox Burgers: The Southern Comfort (Corn-flaked fried chicken, candied bacon, Monterey Jack cheese, maple mayonnaise with a waffle bun)
Dilalloburger: Triple B Burger (Relish, mustard, onion, tomatoes, lettuce, capicolo, cheese, hot peppers and bacon)
Le Gourmet’s #ShrinerBurger
World Burger: Louisiana (Topped with Pulled pork, Swiss cheese, tangy coleslaw Chipotle mayo)
The Bacon Factory Burger Emporium: Major’s Black Garlic Burger (Beef patty on a brioche bun topped with Major Craig’s Black Garlic cream cheese, bacon jam, baby spinach, tomato and a crispy slice of double smoked bacon)
Backdrop Food & Drink: Jerk Wild Boar Burger (Fresh ground wild boar, house-made jerk marinade, greens, fennel slaw, marinated tomatoes, old Cheddar, house pickles)
Rideau Rouge: Le “Vice Caché” (A mixture of 100% Angus beef and chopped Canadian bacon, stuffed with bittersweet home “Arnold chocolates greedy” dark chocolate, topped with French onion red beer, confit Porto grapes homemade julienned Granny Smith apples, fresh and crisp lettuce, mayo Espelette pepper and foie gras on a wheat bun)
Le Fin Gourmet: Kamouraska Je T’aime (Chopped Kamouraska lamb, foie gras, 1608 cheese, pickled onions, salicorne and lemon mayonnaise and savory herbs)
Chez Victor: Burger Homard Tempura (Brioche, lobster tempura, leeks, cream and white wine, mayonnaise with lobster bisque and truffle oil, lettuce) Click here to continue reading Winning Burgers From Le Burger Week
McDonald’s sharp 2.8% decline in same-store sales for August announced this morning is indicative of a continuing shift in eating behavior, according to research from New York City-based Brand Keys. It finds that QSR brands continue to leak customers—of all ages—largely to fast-casual brands.
The creations of dollar menus by many top QSRs may be one reason for the slide, especially among Millennials. Among this age group, 53% agreed with the characterization of traditional QSRs’ fare as “dollar food.” Says Brand Keys Founder and President Robert Passikoff, “You don’t build brands or loyalty on the basis of price. That only works for commodities.”
Brand Keys’ research examined attitudes and behaviors of 1,000 consumers in each of three generational cohorts—baby boomers, Gen X, and Millennials—concerning fast food and fast-casual restaurants. QSR visits by baby boomers were down 18% compared with a year ago. Brand Keys says boomers want “quality food” and find it more often at fast-casual concepts.
Gen Xers show an 11% decline in QSR visits with an equal increase in fast-casual visits. “The Gen X group is more pragmatic about their decisions about eating out, so they seem to be more vulnerable to value positioning,” according to Passikoff. “But they’re skeptical about brands, too, and are looking not for price-value but value for dollar. They feel the fast-casuals offer that, too, equal to and more often better, than the fast food brands.”
QSRs’ greatest customer leakage comes from the ranks of Millennials, which show a 20% decrease in QSR visits. Additionally, 42% reported increased visits to fast-casual restaurants. Passikoff says this group is both the toughest to reach via traditional media and the most difficult with whom to build brand loyalty.