Thinking Outside the Bun

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According to Technomic Inc.’s Canadian Burger Consumer Trend Report, burgers remain a staple in consumers’ diets. In fact, Canadians eat an average of 3.7 burgers a month. As a result, competition within the fast-casual burger segment has become fierce and operators will have to contend with rising commodity prices and the growing list of “better burgers” offered at lower prices by quick-service restaurants.

But thanks to consumers’ desire for premium, customizable and innovative burger options, fast-casual burger concepts are poised for further growth. Consumers are willing to pay more for better burgers if they are perceived to be a good overall value.

“Conveying quality through ‘hand-pressed’ and ‘never-frozen’ attributes can satisfy a broad range of need states, while implementing value cuts and non-beef proteins can lower costs,” says Deanna Jordan, senior research analyst at Chicago-based Technomic. “Adding variety through toppings and portions can also give consumers more price options.”

More than the Meat

According to chef Ryan Marquis, corporate chef at Tabasco, consumers are thinking about more than just the meat when choosing a burger. While he likes to mix flavours right into the patty, he’s seeing a trend towards restaurants getting more innovative with toppings. 

“[Restaurants] are offering chipotle mayo and other spicy spreads or adding heat to a ketchup, mustard or relish,” he says, adding a new trend he’s seen is marinating onions for 24 hours and using them to top burgers.

He also suggests “instead of just a dill pickle on the burger, you pickle the pickle with a spice” to add some punch. “We’re not out to create a burger that is really hot and spicy and people can’t finish it,” he says. “You’re simply trying to add flavour to it. Let’s say your patty itself is bland or you want to reduce the seasoning within the patty, you can compensate by ramping up the toppings — maybe marinate green tomatoes in green Tabasco then bread it and deep fry it.”

“You’re never just going to eat the [patty]…it needs to stand out on its own but everything has to work harmoniously together,” he adds.

Fast Burger Facts:

 According to Chicago-based Technomic Inc.’s The 2015 Canadian Burger Consumer Trend Report:

  • On a weekly basis, 48 per cent of male consumers purchase burgers from restaurants compared to 35 per cent of women
  • Consumers rank meat quality/taste as the most important burger attribute, followed by price/value for the money, quality/taste of toppings and quality/taste of the bun.
  • At limited-service restaurants, mushroom and Swiss tops the list of fastest-growing burger varieties since 2013 with a 100-per-cent increase in menu-item incidence
  • Chicken burger sales at full-service restaurants has grown by five per cent

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