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.
At New Orleans Saints game, fans yell “Who dat?”—a shortened version of “Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?” It’s a 30-year-plus local tradition, so local Sonic Drive-In franchisee Kergan Bros. is heralding the new NFL season with the return of its Who Dat! Burger.
The catch phrase is emblazoned on the crown of the bun (totally edible, of course) and the burger boasts extra flavor from local products Tabasco hot sauce (spiking the mayo) and Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning. Two years ago, the franchisee first tried the edible logo idea with its Ragin Cajun Burger (a nod to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s team name). Last year it tried the Who Dat! Burger in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Alexandria, La.
In New Orleans, everything merits a parade and a street dance. Click here to watch Sonic’s Who Dat! Parade in the French Quarter.
Nationally, Sonic is promoting a new Cheesy Pub Chicken Sandwich (above, right). It combines a an all-white meat grilled or crispy chicken breast with a “pub style” Cheddar cheese sauce, sliced white Cheddar, caramelized onion sauce, lettuce and tomato on a whole-grain ciabatta bun.
Interestingly, Sonic says a beef patty can be swapped in to create a Cheesy Pub Burger, a substitution it hasn’t offered with previous chicken sandwiches. McDonald’s has been offering its premium sandwiches as either beef or chicken for some time.
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers blamed disappointing Q2 sales and guest traffic numbers on marketing errors, including an emphasis on high-end burgers that wasn’t balanced with promotion for its entry-price $6.99 Red’s Tavern Double burger. That low-price was promoted for a while, but Red Robin couldn’t resist expanding its high-end Finest burger line.
The Works’ Hot Magma
The new addition to the lineup of half-pound Angus burgers is The Southern Charm. The patty gets a brown-sugar glaze and is topped with candied bacon, house-made honey BBQ sauce, extra sharp Cheddar, seared red onion, lettuce and mayo. It’s served on a toasted ciabatta bun. Introduced with it is a Beam-N-Bacon Boozy Shake made with Jim Beam Maple Bourbon, caramel and vanilla soft serve blended to perfection and topped with bacon bits and a strip of candied bacon. They’re on the menu through Nov. 2.
Canada’s The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro chain already boasts 50 burger choices but it has found room to stuff in three more. For a limited time the chain is offering three stuffed burgers, each priced at $15.31.
The Pulled Porky is a Canadian beef patty stuffed with pulled porkand smoky BBQ sauce and topped with slaw, crispy onion strings and bacon. The Hot Magma stuffs the beef with with jalapeňo, banana and chipotle peppers and tops it all off with cream cheese, more banana peppers, green onions, house-made Sriracha mayo and a crispy onion ring. The Loaded Lucy is stuffed with melted cheese and topped with bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles, red onion and mayo. The burgers will be available throughout September.
Scottish citizens vote September 18 on an independence referendum. A yes vote would separate it from the United Kingdom and establish Scotland as a totally independent nation once again. As always, there’s a burger angle.
Edinburgh’s Wannaburger burger joint is holding its own referendum (at left). Those who favor independence are urged to order the Alex Salmond Burger (100% Scotch beef, breadcrumbed haggis, melted cheese, Cajun bacon and jalapeňo relish), named for the chairman of the Scottish National Party. Fans of the UK can order the Alistair Darling Burger (double Cajun Scottish beef, doubled melted Swiss and chipotle slaw), named for the head of the Better Together just-say-no organization.
The latest YouGov poll found the race very tight but with the No camp leading 53% to 47%. At Wannaburger, however, the Salmond Burger has held a slight edge.
What happens when Labor Day blows the whistle telling summer it’s time to get out of the pool? Right. That’s why I’m pleased to see “Back to School” burgers as September specials at three burger joints. Last year, no one rode that theme but Flipdaddy’s, Milwaukee Burger Co. and Romers Burger Bar all tried their hands at it.
FlipDaddy’s Back 2 School
Flipdaddy’s version starts with its custom house beef blend patty topped with peanut butter, red-pepper jelly and cherry-wood bacon. Milwaukee Burger Co. has a similar idea, topping a pepper-Jack cheeseburger with peanut butter, grape jelly, an apple slice and brown-sugar bacon. Romers’ version is a little hardier: Certified organic beef spiced with smoky BBQ; smothered with a mushroom, sweet onion and beer compote; smoked Gouda; crisp pancetta and lots of crispy fried jalapeňos.
Haché Gourmet Burgers in Copenhagen, Denmark, is close with an Old School Burger (Chinese cabbage, Havarti cheese, French mustard, red onion, pickled cucumber and house-made ketchup.
Burger Bar in Amarillo, Texas, gets a special shout-out for creating a Burger of the Month Club. Members can compete in monthly contests and win freebies, get a free burger on their birthday and, best of all, the right to submit a name for the monthly BOTM. The special for September is the Sweet ‘n Sassy Burger (a quarter-pound chuck-brisket-blend patty topped with cream cheese and drizzled with raspberry/Tabasco sauce).
Grub Burger Bar’s Mac ‘n’ Cheeseburger
Flip Burger Boutique in Atlanta and Birmingham also is asking customers to name its September BOTM. The build is two seasoned beef patties, each topped with American cheese; shredded lettuce; tomatoes; caramelized onion; B&B pickles; house-made Flip Sauce. Since the burger is simply called “Something” while it waits to be named, I’ve suggested “Something in the Way She Moos Burger.” Yep.
Italian-style burgers are popular this month, too. The Italiano Burger at Bucket List Burgers in Riverside, Calif., tops the beef with shredded mozzarella, pepperoni and Italian red sauce. Wayback Burgers locations are offering a Pepperoni Pizza Burger with pepperoni, mozzarella and pizza sauce. Slater’s 50/50 bring its own special brand of crazy to the idea: Its Rustic Ravioli burger is a Brandt beef patty topped with fried ravioli, Italian sausage, grilled broccolini, roasted tomato, and pesto Alfredo on a brioche bun.
So get back to school and learn about these burger joints’ September Burger of the Month specials. There has to be at least one idea you can borrow. More likely four. The complete list can be found here.
It 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.
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
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.
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.
Burger-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.
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 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:
OAKVILLE, 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 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.
It’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.