For all of the buzz surrounding global-food trends like ethnic flavors and small plates, it might come as a surprise that one of the things consumers are most clamoring for is as American as apple pie: hamburgers. 95 percent of consumers report eating a burger at least once per month, according to Chicago research firm Technomic’s 2013 Burger Consumer Trend Report.
With consumer demand for premium burgers higher than ever before, operators need only look around to see that the industry is responding in kind. Better-burger concepts are becoming ubiquitous—in fact, six burger concepts made this year’s Future 50 list, Restaurant Business’ annual ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing small chains.
In the face of market saturation and rising commodity costs, it can be difficult for operators to differentiate themselves from other better-burger concepts. However, by focusing on the quality of the beef they’re serving, operators can meet consumer expectations for premium burgers and compete effectively for share of stomach.
The connections consumers make between premium burgers and beef quality is a natural one—after all, “better burger” often denotes high-end ingredients, says Scott Hume, editor of BurgerBusiness.com, and telling the sourcing story has never been more important than it is today. “Consumers care about quality and sourcing, and in some cases, they care about breed,” he says. “Consumers want information on burgers.”
To that end, operators should consider offering naturally-raised beef, Angus or Hereford beef and primal or in-house grinds and building a story around those quality offerings. Using menu call-outs that include these indicators, for example, can appeal to customers who seek this type of information.
Operators can also train staff members on the details of the beef they’re offering. Consumers often have questions about proteins that menu call-outs can’t answer, so conducting a “Beef 101” class and providing training can help staff members feel more confident when answering customer questions.
Interestingly, offering quality beef can actually be a way to offset rising commodity costs. Burgers are highly craveable menu items, and premium burgers made with quality beef can be way to draw consumers in and tempt them to open their wallets. In fact, 62 percent of consumers say that meat quality and taste is the most important factor influencing burger purchasing decisions, according to Technomic. Premium burgers also provide a versatile, mid-level price point for value-conscious consumers who want beef as their entrée and are looking for an elevated dining experience.
Menuing quality beef also minimizes the need to offer over-the-top signature burgers and dozens of toppings, some of which can be expensive for operators. “If you have a high-quality beef patty, you want your customers to taste it,” says Hume. “Operators should look at toppings that enhance the flavors of good beef rather than cover it up.”
This post is sponsored by National Beef