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
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
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).
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 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
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.
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
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 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!
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.
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.”
“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.