Getting consumers on board with a burger that’s part veggie might not sound like the easiest task. So when Fiore Moletz, chef-owner of Burgh’ers, created a blended burger that replaces some of the local, grass-fed beef with portobello mushrooms, he promoted it as a healthier, lower-calorie option at the Pittsburgh-based restaurant’s two locations. “Our guests are very health-conscious, sustainability-minded and active,” he says. The blended patty—marketed as #theblend on the menu—now generates 10%-15% of weekly revenue.
Advance prep eases operations
To prep the blended burgers, one of the line cooks cleans and dices the mushrooms, then marinates them for 24 hours in salt, thyme and garlic. The next day, the mushrooms are roasted to enhance their flavor, says Moletz. When an order comes in for a blended burger, the mushrooms are ready to go and don’t hold up the line.
Burgh’ers’ locally sourced beef keeps going up in price, Moletz says. Mixing the beef with mushrooms lowers food costs and improves margins, but the dicing and roasting requires more labor. So Moletz charges an extra dollar for the blended burger—$13 instead of $12—and customers can spec the patty for any of the 12 burgers on the menu. Burgh’ers’ guests don’t balk at paying a little more for an item with a health halo, he says.
Building the buzz
Burgh’ers launched the blended burger as a special after it was named a finalist in a national recipe competition. Moletz played up the win, and news spread via word of mouth. To capitalize on the buzz, he made it a permanent menu item, labeling it #theblend on the menu. “The name starts a dialogue at the table and gives servers the opportunity to explain its health aspects,” he says.
#theblend as marketing tool
The hashtag serves as an immediate entry into Instagram and Snapchat. Customers see the hashtag and it’s a trigger to start taking and tagging photos, says Moletz. Because #theblend is also used by the sponsors of the competition, it’s difficult to quantify Burgh’ers’ unique followers, but Moletz reports that the hashtag has built business at his two locations.