Anatomy of a best-selling burger

pepper grinder pub burger

Growth in the mature better-burger market is likely to come from a burgeoning sweet spot—QSR-plus, a segment marked by made-to-order food and below-fast-casual prices. That’s according to the latest research from Technomic’s Burger Consumer Trend Report. For its part, Culver’s, one such QSR-plus, is relaunching its top-selling LTO, the Pepper Grinder Pub Burger. 

1. Leading with local

For its take on the pub burger trend, Prairie du Sac, Wis.-based Culver’s doesn’t channel England, it channels the heartland—referencing “the supper clubs and pubs that are the heart of small-town life,” in its promos. “We’re not trying to compete with the high-end burger concepts or get too trendy,” says Quinn Adkins, Culver’s director of menu development.

2. Building on bread

People have come to expect an artisan bun on a premium burger, says trend-watcher Scott Hume of So, Culvers is developing a “deep bench” of bun variations to tout the breadth of its menu, says Quinn. The Pepper Grinder’s is heartier in size than the Kaiser rolls Culver’s uses for its regular ButterBurgers; it adds value with a flavor and texture boost from caramelized onions and sesame seeds baked into the dough.

3. Double the cheese

True to Culver’s message, the Swiss and cheddar cheeses, beef, produce and other ingredients for this LTO are sourced from family farms in the Midwest, an effort for a chain with 561 locations in 22 states. 

4. Quadruple the pepper

A sauce still is super-important to elevate a burger from the norm, says Hume. Quinn went bold with a four-peppercorn sauce, combining mayonnaise with black and white peppercorns for their bite, green peppercorns for brininess and pink peppercorns for sweetness. 

5. Selling the burger

“It’s been our most successful LTO burger to date,” says Quinn of the Pepper Grinder. To generate excitement for its November return, Culver’s launched a new Facebook promotion called “Two Truths and a Fib” to test fans’ loyalty to the burger.

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