There are few foods as ‘American’ as the hamburger. People are so crazy about their burgers that 71% of all beef eaten in restaurants takes place between a hamburger bun.
But where did that all begin? It’s been declared on many different shows and websites that hamburger history was made with Delmonico’s in New York City presenting us with the first burger, but that has since then been refuted. Supposedly, the printer that they used for the menu wasn’t even in business when their famed burger was “created”.
With Americans eating about 50 billion burgers a year, this is one dish you’re going to want to keep on your menu.
This doesn’t mean you can just put together some ground beef and bread and expect your sales to skyrocket though. It turns out the 3 out of 5 consumers want to know the backstory of their beef, and 68% of them are Millennials. With the biggest generation yet wanting to know where your beef comes from, now is the time to look at where you are sourcing your food.
This is where the mid-range burger joints are making a niche for themselves. With premium ingredients and a backstory of local product and happy cows, they are able to sell a burger at a much higher cost than any fast food joint.
By using “premium” ingredients, around 40% of guests are more likely to purchase and spend slightly more to significantly more money on the burger.
From a $1 value meal burger, people are now looking at $8 fast casual burgers, with a seven dollar increase on the same meal you’re going to need to be creative with your concept.
Not only does this put fast food joints on high alert, but if you’re a mid-range restaurant, what do you do? It used to be there were only a few different levels of burgers. You have the fast food, the mid-range restaurant, then the high-end. Now with places like Shake Shack and Smashburger opening and taking over this field there is more competition for this 73 billion dollar business. They aren’t quite fast food, because what fast food place talks about their locally sourced lettuce, there is something higher quality about them that gets guests in the door. And we love reading stories like this about local burger joints that embrace new technology and ingredients into their concepts!
The burger industry should listen to what the guests want
46% of consumers want more chicken burgers, with a close following of 42% wanting more turkey. Red meat has been somewhat labeled as a treat meal, and not a part of a regular diet- so a white meat burger can get those guests who don’t want to indulge as much.
With the hamburger industry rapidly changing, the focus always seems to fall on what Millennials want and what the next big thing is. This time around it’s just a plain, classic, American burger (as long as everything is organic and 100% pure angus beef).
Healthy and tasty alternative burger meats
Over the years, restaurants and cooks have come up with many different versions of the classic hamburger, with different meats and combinations of fillings and sauces.
While chicken, pork and mutton would be the alternatives that readily spring to mind, there are many other meats that qualify for a tasty burger.
For those looking for a healthier alternative to beef with the same feel and flavor, buffalo meat is a great choice, albeit somewhat expensive for you as the restaurateur.
The turkey burgers , or “gobblers” as they are often called, are another specialty, especially during Thanksgiving. Fish is another great tasting alternative that has proven to be quite popular. Tuna, salmon and even shrimp make a really great patty for a burger.
An exceptional burger is more than just the meat
Purists might scoff at that statement, but it is true. A burger is about the whole experience, the coming together of different textures, flavors and tastes in one bite. Sometimes it’s a combination of many meats. A lamb, turkey, beef burger is sure to diversify anyone’s palate.
Ground beef, though integral to the feel of the authentic burger experience, isn’t always the hero by itself. We have all had burgers since as long as we can remember. Maybe not the best tasting ones all the time, but we have all had our moments of burger nirvana in our lives.
But who doesn’t love a change from the “burger boredom” that we have been induced to from our childhood by the big chain restaurants?
So going beyond the familiar beef and mustard, ketchup and relish may not be a bad idea all round for the smaller restaurants looking for ways to grab the attention of customers.
One simple way to sell burgers and make your burger meat stand out is with novel toppings and sauces.
Fuddruckers is a burger chain that serves their burgers plain and lets guests go to town on a fully-stocked condiment bar.
High end and upscale burger chefs have already shown us the way forward with condiments and accompaniments for the beef patty that go beyond the traditional ketchup, mustard and relish formula, like spicy horseradish sauces, gourmet cheeses, and the infamous Juicy Lucy, often stuffed with sauces or cheese.
By upgrading your burgers, you won’t need to apologize for raising the cost according to rising beef prices.
One way burger bars have found a way to subsidize the cost of beef is not by taking it off the menu, but by giving people as many options for “meat” as they can.
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Luxe Burger Bar in Providence, Rhode Island lets guests choose from six different types of meat: Gold Label Beef, Kobe Beef, Lean Turkey, Chicken Breast, Ahi Tuna Fillet, or a Veggie Burger.
And we all know Red Robin is not only king of the creative burger, but also the chicken burger which is often slathered in teriyaki sauce, or fried in cajun seasoning. We’ve even seen them topped with pineapple and served on ciabatta bread.
Speaking of bread, how about cutting costs on those carbs by offering lettuce wraps?
Elevation Burger (and bigger chains like Five Guys and Hardees) already have them on their menu for carb-conscious diners. The best part? Healthy diners don’t expect a discount for it (I know this because I always order a lettuce wrap!)
Getting the word out there
If you have a killer burger recipe with different meats, you need to market your product right. Online marketing is one thing that cannot be neglected at any cost. If it is a novelty burger, the chances of grabbing attention are better, especially with TV shows being dedicated to such foods available on most major networks.
Read the threads of popular reddit communities with food allergies and diet preferences like /r/glutenfree or and /r/keto. These communities are often begging for and/or bragging about local businesses who cater to their dietary needs and word spreads like wildfire!
To sell burgers in bulk, promo events like cooking competitions and eating contests give great publicity as well. It may be too late for you to hope for Adam Richman to show up for his next battle of “Man vs. Food” but such challenges can be good press and a way to attract patrons and get some good word of mouth press about your burgers.
It’s all about standing apart from the rest of the pack, or patties as is the case here.
Our 4 Favorite Burgers in the United States
A gastropub is defined as being a pub with excellent food. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as making a killer basket of buffalo wings, even if they’re the best wings in the city. However, in terms of marketing, transforming your pub into a gastropub will absolutely transform your clientele and boost sales — if you get it right.
The first step is to get your burger right, because getting the seal of approval on a burger at your establishment opens you up to a very large meat-loving audience. If you can get a veggie burger right too, you’ve got solid gold.
Ivy Tavern, Providence RI
There’s a pub in Providence, RI called the Ivy Tavern. If you walked in off the street, you’d think it was just your average bar. You’d pop up a stool, grab a glass of beer from the tap and pick a burger from the menu. However, if you came from the Internet, it’s probably because you heard about the Ivy Burger from the respectable foodies on Yelp:
- “The best burger in Providence, hands down.”
- “When I want a big, juicy, tasty burger, I come here.”
- “The burger is as good as everyone says.”
The food speaks for itself, which makes the marketing easy. People dubbing their burger “the best burger in Providence” is no small task, and I’ve personally been watching their Yelp reviews rise as the word is catching on.
The burger: The burger sounds so simple that you might not even notice it. It’s an 8oz. premium burger, lettuce, tomato and choice of cheese. Additional toppings include bacon, chili mushrooms and onions.
The strategy: So what’s so special about this burger? Word on the street is that it’s cooked in butter. It also doesn’t hurt that they serve it with a garlic fries daintily topped with garlic and herbs.
Hemmer Brothers, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
So you’ve got a good burger, but how can you get people to order it? Try the route of Hemmer Brothers, who’s burger, dubbed “The Squealer” was named the best burger in the state of South Dakota by the Food Network.
The burger: Just your average burger, except—oh right—they grind it themselves and mix bacon into the patties. The single patty version is called “The Squealer”, while their bigger version is called “The Piggy Back Double Bacon Cheeseburger”.
The strategy: The name, and the bacon. What self-respecting meat eater doesn’t like bacon? Calling it “The Squealer” not only garners attention but it’s also representative of what you’ll find inside. Another noteworthy name from the Food Network’s “best of” list? The Murder Burger at Havens Brothers – let’s just say that it involves a lot of chili and cheese.
La Laiterie, Providence RI
La Laiterie also holds some severe dominance in the Wayland Square section of Providence. While their common label as a gatropub is arguable (because their focus is more on the restaurant than the bar), we’ll let it slide just so that we can showcase the burger and the simplicity of taking a regular burger and turning it into something special.
The burger: “1/2 pound vermont, all natural burger, sweet pepper jelly & your choice of cheese”.
The strategy: The sweet pepper jelly. Besides using great quality meat, the next step in defining a really tasty burger is finding a condiment that transforms the flavor from “ooh” to “ahh”. It probably also helps that they own a cheese shop and can offer a mean selection of bleu’s to go on top.
Holeman & Finch Public House, Atlanta GA
The burger: Local pastured beef, cheese, and homemade buns, ketchup, mustard and even pickles.
The strategy: The burger isn’t on the menu. In fact, H&F only makes 24 of these burgers, and they only sell them at 10pm until they’re gone. How do people know they’re up for grabs? By megaphone of course.
Check out Upserve’s Restaurant Marketing Strategies Guide!