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Burger King Intros Lower-Cal, Higher-Price “Satisfries”

Burger King is changing its french fries again, this time adding premium-price, healthier fries alongside those it introduced two years ago. The company calls this latest fry innovation “one of the biggest fast food launches” ever.

Crinkle-cut Satisfries are available across the U.S.

Crinkle-cut Satisfries are available across the U.S.

The new “Satisfries” will be on Burger King menus systemwide on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013. These are crinkle-cut fries that the chain claims are more healthful than the fries McDonald’s serves: 40% lower in fat (6.3 grams compared with 11.2 grams per 70 gram serving) with 30% fewer calories (150.5 calories for Satisfries vs. 226.8 for McDonald’s fries for a 70 g serving). With calorie counts now showing up on menu boards, any reduction can be a persuasive marketing tool.

Satisfries are priced about 20¢ to 30¢ higher than comparable servings of Burger King’s “classic” fries (which remain on the menu), a spokesperson said. The new fries will be available in value ($1.29 suggested), small ($1.89), medium ($2.09) and large ($2.29) serving sizes.

Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 10.27.34 PMThe chain says its new Satisfries are made with thinly battered real whole potatoes. It claims the new product’s recipe allows them to absorb less oil during frying, thus reducing fat and calories. The smallest (value) serving of Satisfries has 190 calories, 8 grams of fat 210 milligrams of sodium.

The Hudson Institute in February reported a study that found sales of french fries declined nearly 2% (or about 10 million servings a year) at five big restaurant chains between 2006 and 2011. “French fries are declining in both number of servings and share of total food servings among quick-service chains that have more than $3 billion in sales,” the report concluded. It noted that lower-calorie beverages were outperforming traditional sweetened beverages at these chains.

“One out of every two Burger King guests orders our classic french fries and we know our guests are hungry for options that are better for them, but don’t want to compromise on taste,” Alex Macedo, Burger King President North America, said in a release announcing the product rollout. “When it comes to what we eat, we know that small changes can have a big impact. We see Satisfries™ as one of the biggest fast food launches and are excited to bring this great tasting french fry to our guests.”

Fall seems to be the season for revamping QSR french fry offerings. Wendy’s introduced its Natural-Cut Fries with Sea Salt in November 2010. Burger King followed in November 2011 by introducing its current thicker-cut fries (though not as thick as those Wendy’s previously offered). In July 2011, McDonald’s announced it would reduce the size of french fry servings in its Happy Meals for kids, with apple slices available as a substitute for the fries.

MGM Grand Ready for Burger Showdown

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Avenue 24 Bar & Grill

Avenue 24 Bar & Grill

The dawn of the Era of Upscale Burgers is often traced to Daniel Boulud’s 2001 introduction of the DB Burger at his db Bistro Moderne in New York City. The burger had foie gras at its center and was priced then at $27. From then on it was accepted, even expected, that a fine-dining chef could craft a fine burger.

Given that, it’s good to see that the notion of high-end-chef-created burgers continues to be celebrated. On Oct. 5, 2013, chefs from eight restaurants in Las Vegas’s MGM Grand Hotel & Casino will be serving attendees their burgers during the Burger Bash that will be a highlight of the 4th annual Food & Wine All-Star Weekend (taking place October 4-6).



Emeril's New Orleans Fish House

Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House

Their burgers had better be stellar because the judges will be three highly respected chefs led by world-renowned Joël Robuchon  (executive chef at Joël Robuchon Restaurant in the MGM Grand), named France’s Chef of the Century by the Gault Millau restaurant guide among many other honors. Joining him at the judging table will be Michael Mina (creator and managing chef of Michael Mina restaurant in the Bellagio) and Ho Chee Boon (international development chef for Hakkasan in the MGM Grand).

MGM Grand is giving BurgerBusiness.com readers an early look at the competitors:



Michael Mina's PUB 1842

Michael Mina PUB 1842

 L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon (separate from Joël Robuchon Restaurant): Executive Chef (and “Chopped” champion) Steve Benjamin’s Le Burger salutes French cuisine by topping a beef patty with a hearty slab of foie gras and caramelized bell peppers.

Avenue 24 Bar & Grill: Executive Chef Steve Barr puts his own spin to the Classic Slider concept with a patty of beef cheek that’s topped with smears of Boursin cheese and tomato jam along with shallot cracklings. A salted caraway brioche bun completes the build.

Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak: Executive Chef Robert Kirchhoff’s Grilled Beef Burger is a pork belly patty joined by a slice of heirloom tomato, blue cheese and chipotle BBQ sauce.

Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House: Chef de Cuisine Heath Cicerilli created the Hand Ground Burger Steak that will represent the Bam!-master’s restaurant. Toppings begin with oxtail marmalade and continue through Havarti cheese and a crispy onion crust, all together in a hand-made potato roll.



Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill

Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill

 Fiamma Trattoria: Chef Ilse Poyato pays homage to his roots with Tuscan Sliders. These are house-ground prime beef patties with white Cheddar, red-onion pickle and a slice of prosciutto.

Michael Mina PUB 1842: Anthony Schutz, executive chef for the MGM Grand restaurant named for the year pilsner beer was invented, offers his signature Bacon Cheeseburger. A beef patty is topped with smoked Gouda cheese and melted American cheese, followed by lettuce, the pub’s secret sauce, bacon and … more bacon.

Shibuya: East and west merge in Executive Chef Heather Zheng’s Nori Salmon Burger. A slice of salmon is the central protein. On top are wasabi relish and asparagus slaw.

Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill: The sliders Wolfgang Puck serves at the annual Oscar Night Governors Ball are the stuff of legend. For the Burger Bash, Chef Michael Tiva has created Grilled Sliders that also will be talked about. Toppings include Gouda cheese, habanero-tomato chutney, IPA caramelized onion (Reutberger dunkel Bustard), arugula, Arrogant Bastard beer-battered cipollini. The burger is served on a pretzel bun.

White Paper: Burger Brands and Twitter

twitter_icon5I don’t often open BurgerBusiness.com to outside contributors, but I’ll consider making a exception when someone else knows a topic far better than I do. Such is the case with Harry Hawk and Twitter. Harry understands it and is interested in how both burger brands and consumers use it and interact through it.

Harry teaches in the Hospitality Management Program of New York City College of Technology and has worked in both the hospitality and technology fields for many years. He also has spent a great deal of time looking at burger brands’ Twitter activities. He’s charted how many followers each has, how often they tweet, how inclined they are to publicly respond to tweets and more.

He has compiled his research into a white paper that makes for very interesting reading even if, like me, your knowledge of the intricacies of social media is minimal. His paper can be accessed here. To see the full chart that accompanies it, click here.

The Counter Bellies Up to Oktoberfest

Counter_SM_OktoberfestThe Counter starts celebrating Oktoberfest this weekend with the addition of another of its occasional specialty burgers. Available only from September 21 to October 6, its Oktoberfest Burger is a beef patty topped with German beer cheese, sauerkraut, mustard and diced pork belly with an on-trend pretzel bun.

Served with it will be Oktoberfest Fries, which also get the beer cheese, sauerkraut and pork belly plus chopped green onion. This LTO is the chain’s first use of pork belly. The Counter says Founder Jeff Weinstein and its culinary team collaborate on new-burger creation.

The 34-unit, Culver City, Calif.-based concept is built around the customize-your-own-burger idea, but every so often it creates a limited-time burger for the menu. The last was the “Burgers & Beaujolais” pairing promotion with Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages wines. The LTOs were a beef burger topped with soft brie, mixed greens, sprouts, sliced red onion and apricot sauce on a brioche-style bun plus a turkey burger with feta, baby spinach, roasted tomatoes, cucumber, black olives and artichoke vinaigrette, also on the brioche bun.

Breakfast, Fast Casuals Boost Customer Counts

Source: The NPD Group/CREST, quarter ending June 2013

Source: The NPD Group/CREST, quarter ending June 2013

Customer traffic at U.S. restaurants in Q2 was up 1% over the year-earlier level thanks in large part to increases in QSR breakfast and fast-casual traffic.

The latest data from The NPD Group/CREST counts 15.7 billion customer visits for the April-May-June quarter, returning the U.S. foodservice business to its 2009 level. In addition to the traffic increase, consumer restaurant spending rose by 3%, driven by a higher check average.

Quick-service restaurants (78% of total industry customer traffic) saw a 1% increase for the second quarter. That included a 3% increase in morning-meal traffic and an 8% jump in customer traffic at fast-casual restaurants (included in the QSR total). QSR traffic at lunch and dinner was flat; PM Snack customer counts were 1% higher than a year ago.

Traffic at midscale restaurants (10%) was steady at 2% below year-earlier traffic for the fourth consecutive month. Casual dining (10%) was flat after at least eight consecutive quarters of negative comparisons. Fine dining (1% of total traffic) was 6% ahead of last year’s Q2.

It’s a Bar. It’s Food Trucks. It’s Truck Yard.

Jason Boso was ahead of the pack in 2006 when he and fellow culinary-school grads Quincy Hart and Steve Thompson co-founded Twisted Root Burger Co. in Dallas, one of the early high-quality, chef-driven burger bars. Last weekend Boso opened his latest concept, Truck Yard, in a 15,000-square-foot lot in Dallas’s Lower Greenville neighborhood. The place is like a sprawling backyard with picnic tables, fire puts and a converted mechanic’s shed turned bar and Steak Me Home Tonight, where they’re cooking sliced rib-eye cheesesteak sandwiches. BurgerBusiness.com pulled Boso away from the cheesesteak grill for a few minutes to give the lowdown on Truck Yard and its meaning for Twisted Root.

So Jason, help me understand what this crazy concept is all about.
Crazy’s probably the right word. Most people when we told them what it was going to be, they couldn’t conceptualize it. But when they walk in they say, “Oh. Now I see what you’re saying.”

TruckYard1A lot of people are calling it a “food park” but, really, it’s more of a bar where you can sit in a beer garden and also get up and go get food from a truck if you want. The atmosphere is more bar than restaurant. There’s a full bar [in the main building] plus one in an old Airstream trailer in the back yard with a bartender in it. There’s a treehouse bar [14 feet up] with a bartender up in it and a big stage for the music we plan on having pretty consistently during the week. And then I’m selling Philly cheesesteaks through a little place. You and the cook are yelling back and forth about what you want on it. It’s that kind of place.

No burgers?
No. We do allow a food truck to sell burgers back here but I’m just serving cheesesteaks.

You’ll rotate the food trucks that will be coming in?
We have a regular rotation of 20-something different trucks. [See the schedule here.] Two to three at a time. We try to keep some consistency, so the same three will be here every Tuesday, for example. [That’s Easy Slider, Good Karma Kitchen and ssahmBBQ at lunch.]

A lot of restaurateurs see food trucks as a threat. It doesn’t sound as though you do.
No. I thought it was a good marriage. I plan on making a majority of my revenue from alcohol sales, so I thought foods trucks would be a good way to draw more people. And it’s a way for me to reduce my square-footage costs by not needing a gigantic kitchen. That cuts my equipment costs and occupancy costs. If I can pack the place full of people and pay servers through tips, it makes it easy for me and a lot more fun.TruckYard_logo

The food-truck community must have bought in to the idea if you have 20 or so eager to take part.
They were really excited. There’ve been some of these “food-truck parks” in Dallas and Fort Worth but really not many of them have worked out. These [truck] guys have seen them go wrong but they’ve told us we might have the right equation for it.

Where did the idea come from? Was it the site or did you have the idea already?
If you know Austin, you know it has a laid-back, flip-flop feel. And outside there is my favorite place in the world, a town called Gruene. It’s pronounced “Green” but spelled Gruene. I love to go to Gruene Hall [built in 1878] and go dancing, float down the river the next day. And that was the main inspiration: a lot of outdoor drinking and dining with some good Texas country music. You can come with your hat on backwards and wearing that shirt you’ve had since college that just might be a little stinky. That’s my favorite atmosphere.

TruckYard_EatHere Is there any sense in which Truck Yard is you saying the “burger bar” era is over?
No, no. I probably would have done burgers here had it not been so close to my original Twisted Root location. Burgers are still No. 1 and I don’t see that changing. You know as well I do that some people like to say burgers are dying. Maybe they are for the “stamped out” chains but uniqueness and creativity are still very craveable. At least that’s what I see.

You have nine Twisted Roots open now, right? With a few more set to open this year?
Our Austin location is experiencing a bit of a delay due to some permit issues. But it will probably open by the end of the year. Shreveport, La., [the first outside Texas] opens next weekend.

How many units can the concept comfortably—meaning you, comfortably—manage?
I continue to grow my team, which is mostly a bunch of close friends I’ve known for 20 years who have a specific skill set that fits our needs. The ones who don’t have those skills just come and drink beer. But I continue to grow that team ahead of the expansion and pay more than I should [for locations] just so I can continue to be creative and not become a uniform chain.

I’m always looking for funky buildings, funky neighborhoods and the funky staff with the nose rings and the big smiles.

So as long as you don’t run out of funky you can keep growing?
Yep. As soon as I feel the funk go away, I’ll slow down or stop!

If you had to create another, totally new concept next week, what’s it going to be?
Fried chicken.

Seriously? Should we watch for that in a year or so?
I think you should!  I do have some plans. It keeps the energy alive.

Triple O’s Piles On a Poutine Burger

TripleOs_PoutineBurgerHad Burger King really wanted to be inventive and daring, it would have put a Poutine Burger on its menu instead of its four-fry French Fry Burger. It didn’t go all the way but Triple O’s has. The Vancouver, B.C.-based, 40-unit chain has added not just a Poutine Burger that does the Canadian culinary delight proud but also a Salted Caramel & Pretzel Shake. Now that is covering the trends.

The build for Triple O’s Poutine Burger is a 100% Canadian beef patty topped with bacon, thick-cut french fries, cheese curds, gravy and chipotle mayo. A cup of extra gravy comes on the side.

This isn’t the first burger joint to put together a poutine-style burger. Umami did one last year topped with thin-cut fries, truffle cheese and mushroom gravy. Triple O’s may be the first QSR chain to give a poutine burger a whirl. Both Wendy’s and Burger King have poutine on their menus in Canada, but not on a burger. And if you’re interested in exploring the space where burgers and poutine intersect, check out Baldwin Street Burgers in Whitby, Ont. It creates a daily special that might be a funky burger, might be a clever poutine or might be something else. But it’s never boring.

Food-Away-From-Home Spending Up 2.2%

The average American household spent $51,442 in 2012, a 3.5% increase from 2011 according to just-released data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Both food-at-home and food-away-from-home spending increased by 2.2% over the previous year.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Aggregate spending on food accounted for 12.8% of household expenditures in 2012, compared with 13% in 2011.

The average household spent $2,678 on food away from home, accounting for 5.21% of total expenditures. That’s essentially unchanged from 2011, when food-away-from-home was 5.27% of spending.

Spending for food at home was $3,921 in 2012, compared with $3,838 the previous year. Americans devoted 7.6% of spending to food at home, or 46% more on food prepared at home. Still, food purchased away from home, though a smaller percentage of food spending, seems to receive closer scrutiny.

BLS data shows that Hispanic/Latino households devoted 15.5% of household expenditures to food (both away and at-home) last year. That’s higher than the 12.6% average share for white households and 12.1% for African-American households.

Expenditures for transportation (+8.5%), healthcare (+7.3%) and personal insurance and pensions (+3.1%) increased more than those for food last year.