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 Wisconsin Provolone Portobello Pesto Burger shown below!

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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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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

McDonald’s Signs In

Despite—or perhaps because of—all the attention given digital media in general and McDonald’s embrace of it in particular, it is nice to see the chain celebrating the delights of that clunky, old-school, analog communications medium, the outdoor sign.

A 60-second TV spot titled “Signs” (from Leo Burnett) that the chain began airing over the weekend compiles snapshots of that iconic sign below the arches at many of its restaurants. Sometimes the message displayed is purely promotional (“McRib is Back!”), but other times it is used to intimately connect the brand to the community and the nation. With the song “Carry On” by Fun. providing a background, the commercial assembles examples of local support (“Keep jobs in Toledo”), sympathy (“All of weep for the Columbia families”), determination (“We will be back soon”), patriotism (“God Protect the USA”), love (“Happy 95 Birthday Woody We Love You”) and more that have graced franchisees’ signs.

Obviously, the main message from this piece of the new “Choose Lovin’” brand-image campaign is that McDonald’s restaurants are part of communities and part of customers’ lives. But I think McDonald’s is fine with a broader reading of that message so that it encompasses all restaurants. Your restaurant as well as Ronald’s. There’s a quick nod here to a social bond that doesn’t exist between consumers and their cleaners or their drugstore. Restaurants connect with people differently. Given all we’ve seen in the world in the past week, I’m good with 60 seconds of love, hope and respect.

And then it’s back to digital media: McDonald’s explains the stories behind the signs shown in the commercial at its Tumblr site (mcdonalds.tumblr.com).

UK’s Gourmet Burger Kitchen Taking Reservations

Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) has become the first major fast-casual burger chain to take reservations at its 62 restaurants across the UK via its smartphone app.

Tested since early November as a way to ease holiday crowding, the table-booking function is continuing beyond the holidays. Customers who log into the GBK smartphone/tablet app can select a location, meal, time and number of people (although large parties may need to book by phone still).  “We started it over Christmas & it worked rather well,” the chain announced on its Facebook page.

GBK in Cardiff, Wales

GBK in Cardiff, Wales

GBK partnered with online bookings system liveRES to develop the reservations program, which provides the chain with a new detailed source of customer data. Quoted on liveRES’ website, Katie McDermott, GBK marketing director, said, “More and more customers are choosing to book online either at home on their PC or on the move over a mobile device. We are pleased to be working with liveRES on a reservations system that works well for both our staff and our customers.”

Founder by three New Zealanders in 2001, GBK serves a range of upscale burgers made with grass-fed British beef.  The 4 oz. Classic (with house mayo, relish and lettuce) is £5.05 ($7.63US). The current special is The St. Morish (6-oz, beef patty, raclette cheese, truffled mushrooms, baconnaise, chilli chocolate ketchup and onion jam) is £9.95 ($15 US).

Meanwhile, beacon technology, another digital tool being used in the UK, was tested during the holidays by McDonald’s. I’ll let UK digital agency Hiveworks explain how beacons work: “Beacons are a new class of short-range, low-powered transmitters that can push notifications to mobile devices when they come within 70 metres of the Beacon. They use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), an open standard which enables short-range wireless communication using a fraction of the power of standard Bluetooth. Thanks to the low power usage, small beacon transmitters can run for up to two years on a single cell battery.”

GBK's St. Morish burger

GBK’s St. Morish burger

TechnoBuffalo reports that McDonald’s deployed beacons across several test restaurants for four weeks through a partnership with Piper. Consumers received coupons, alerts or other communications when they came within proximity of the beacons. TechnoBuffalo says more than 18,000 people took advantage of the coupons and McDonald’s restaurants saw an 8% sales gain for McChicken and 7.5% for Chicken McNuggets.

McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson recently told analysts that the chain intends to launch a global digital app as part of its effort to improve customer experience and engagement. “In the U.S., it will include promotional offers, also some mobile payment opportunities such as Apple Pay and also some things possibly with our e-Arch Card,” Thompson said in October.

Marketing, Menu & McDonald’s Boost Sonic Sales

Sonic_Exterior2015_375Sonic Drive-In has set the bar high for its publicly traded competitors, reporting an impressive 8.5% same-store sales increase for franchised stores (7.9% for company) for the fiscal quarter ended Nov. 30, 2014. Only 2.5% of that jump was due to menu-price increases; more than half came from increased guest traffic, the company said. McDonald’s troubles also are helping.

Chairman-CEO-President Clifford Hudson credited the increase to Sonic’s “combination of the car-[hops], the made-to-order food, new products that differentiate us from traditional fast-food competitors [that] allows us to make a different connection with the consumer in a way that I think keeps them coming back.”

Sonic also benefited from at least three other corners.  One is the POPS (Point of Personalized Sale) platform the chain installed in 2014. Hudson said the digital menu boards have increased suggested selling and cross-daypart promotional messaging. Hudson said it “provides order confirmation and it provides suggested-sell offers for combo meals. And because of this, we’ve seen an increase in the number of combo meals ordered.” Click here to continue reading Marketing, Menu & McDonald’s Boost Sonic Sales

Burger of the Month Specials for January 2015

Happy New Year! The January specials at burger bars across the globe are an interesting mix of predictable and whacky. That’s good.

Black Betty's Fat Elvis

Black Betty’s Fat Elvis

Predictable (though still appealing, course) are the riffs on January resolutions. 5 Star Burgers’ Resolution Burger has freshly ground beef, coleslaw, “frickles,” and candied-bacon jalapeňo jam. The eat-light resolution kinda went out the window at the end on that one.  Bucket List Burgers’ New Year’s Resolution burger is healthy start to finish: A hand-formed turkey patty with citrus-corn salsa atop crisp iceberg lettuce and tomato with light sun-dried tomato and spinach aïoli on an oat-topped whole-wheat bun. DMK’s eat-healthy Paleo Burger is a grass-fed beef patty with portobello mushrooms, arugula pistou and sweet potato fries.

I always forget that January is Elvis’ birth month, but others keep the faith. The Oinkster’s Thai Elvis Burger a 5-oz. seasoned pork patty topped with house-made peanut satay sauce, sliced fried plantains and Char Sui pork belly. Up in Calgary, Black Betty Burger & Wine Bar is featuring the Fat Elvis this month. That’s a 7-oz. Wagyu beef patty with fried bananas, chipotle-peanut sauce and crispy pancetta on house brioche bun. Thank you very much.

Slater's 50/50's Faux Gras Burger

Slater’s 50/50′s Faux Gras Burger

Slater’s 50/50 comes through with its usual creativity: The Faux Gras Burger has peppered beef, fattened chicken livers, Granny Smith apple & onion marmalade, white Cheddar, onion strings, grain mustard and arugula on a brioche bun. Burger Bar Chicago tops an Angus patty slow-cooked pot roast heaped with white Cheddar, crispy onions and house Hunter sauce (a red wine short-rib reduction with mushrooms, carrots and tomatoes). No New Years kale salads here.

A couple of joints make their debuts on the Burger of the Month roundup this month. Farrell’s, known in California as an ice cream haven, is promoting The Tailgate Burger for January. It starts with a fresh 1/2 lb. Angus patty with pepper-Jack cheese and lettuce. Topping that is a pile of nachos built with a crisp heaping helping of Doritos nacho chips, melted Cheddar, sour cream, black olives, fresh guacamole and house-made salsa. Bleu Buffalo waffle fries stand by on the side. Vera’s Burger Shack, a 16-unit chain out of Vancouver, B.C., features a Pizza Burger with pizza sauce, hot Genoa salami, mushrooms, Vera’s sauce, creamy-melty Havarti cheese, lettuce and tomato.

So feel free to browse among January’s burger specials of the month. They’re in a separate file here. There are ideas enough to get you through summer at least!

2015 Dawns with Patty Melt Parade

Is this going to be another big year for patty melts? I didn’t predict such a trend but the new year has begun with the appearance of several variations on the classic burger-and-cheese-on-toast concept. Among them:

Johnny Rockets

Johnny Rockets

At the 15-location Burger 21 chain, a jazzed-up patty melt is the new special.  The build is it’s Certified Angus Beef patty with freshly grilled onions, melted Swiss cheese and a relish-infused Ragin’ Cajun aïoli.

On the West Coast, Johnny Rockets has unveiled a new lineup of what it’s calling Inside-Out Cheesy Melts. The idea is “two melty cheese slices inside and two crispy slices on the outside…a perfect blend of cheesiness and fresh ingredients.” Varieties are the Cheesy Bacon Tomato Melt, Double Cheddar Patty Melt and a Veggie Patty Melt.

Burger 21

Burger 21

Steak n Shake, too, is thinking patty melt and January healthy resolutions. It has introduced a Veggie Melt sandwich, which has Portobello mushrooms, guacamole, red onion, lettuce, tomato and pepper-Jack chees on grilled sourdough.

Independent burger bars are in on the trend, too. Grill ‘Em All in Alhambra, Calif., famous for its creative burger builds (and names) is offering four weekly specials in January, each a past special that customers asked them to bring back. First up? The Leviathan aka Shark Boy, “a classic patty melt slathered with beer-soaked onions, Swiss and American cheeses sandwiched with tuna melt buns on marble rye. Atlanta’s Yeah! Burger makes a classic patty melt its January special, too.

These follow closely upon Hardee’s late-December addition of its Bacon Velveeta Patty Meltdown. This burger features Velveeta cheese and thick applewood-smoked bacon and grilled onions on a 1/4-, 1/3- or 1/2-lb. charbroiled Black Angus beef patty on grilled sourdough bread.

McDonald’s: All You Need is ‘Lovin’ It’

McDonald’s greets the new year on Jan. 3 with the latest incarnation of its’ “I’m lovin’ it” campaign, hoping to change its business, customer perceptions and maybe even the world. In a video released by the company today, Deborah Wahl, chief marketing officer for McDonald’s USA, says the campaign is part of “a brand transformation” that shifts the chain’s focus “from billions served to billions heard.”

Lovin' can even bring Republicans and Democrats together.

Lovin’ can even bring Republicans and Democrats together.

McDonald’s is “on a journey to change the conversation and the relationship,” Wahl says. “We are listening more, assuming less.” The “Our food. Your questions” initiative was part of this change and Wahl says McDonald’s has received more than 20,000 questions.

A 60-second animated anthem TV spot features a variety of long-times—such as Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers fans and Batman and Joker—sharing some lovin’. This spot does not use the “Lovin’ > Hatin’” equation that this site reported McDonald’s had trademarked in November, although it closes with “Choose lovin’.”

Leo Burnett, Chicago, created the campaign.

“Lovin’ sits at the heart of our business,” Wahl says. “We are putting lovin’ into everything we do. And we are going to tell customers about it.” She adds that McDonald’s believes “a little more lovin’ can change a lot. Even the world we live in.”

McD_Wahl“Over the next few months, we will be reigniting the lovin’ that has been at the heart of our business since the beginning,” Wahl says.

For all the talk of brand transformation, the first new 30-second “I’m lovin’ it” executions cover some familiar ground. “You can’t get juiciness like this from soy or quinoa! This is not Greek yogurt,” proclaims one spot extolling the virtues of the Big Mac. Another spot hypes last year’s inclusion of Cuties clementines in Happy Meals and a breakfast commercial says the Egg McMuffin begins with cracking real eggs. This is a point of difference the chain has emphasized since Taco Bell introduced its breakfast menu in April. McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson dismissed competition from “taco shops” then.

Wahl says the Cuties were a response to customer interest in freshness, just as the developing Create Your Taste platform provides customization customers want. This month’s streamlining of the menu is an effort to “focus our menu on what customers love most,” Wahl says.

McDonald’s spent $988 million—$2.7  million a day—on U.S. advertising in 2013, according to Kantar Media. It likely topped $1 billion in 2014 as it struggled to reverse declining sales.