CHICAGO — Burgers certainly haven’t lost their sizzle in the American diet, with 57% of consumers eating them at least weekly, according to Technomic, a Chicago-based industry tracker. However, restaurants remain challenged by rising beef prices and negative health perceptions. Operators may overcome these obstacles by exploring other protein options and appealing to consumer desire for customization, Technomic said.
“Utilizing value beef cuts and incorporating non-beef proteins can help lower costs and broaden the range of need states burgers can satisfy,” said Sara Monnette, vice-president at Technomic.
Of those who eat burgers once a week or more, 39% of consumers purchase them from a fast-food restaurant, 37% make burgers at home, and 16% buy burgers from a fast-casual restaurant.
Customization is key for 61% of consumers, and 43% said build-your-own options are important. Recognizing demand for personalized patties, McDonald’s this year expanded its test of a build-your-own burger platform in select markets. The company’s Create Your Taste option enables customers to choose from a selection of buns, cheese, toppings and sauces.
Other restaurants have introduced non-beef burgers. Chicken burgers are on the rise, growing 23% since 2013 on limited-service restaurant menus, followed by barbecue burgers (14%) and veggie burgers (10%). Recently, White Castle added a veggie slider to its menu, featuring a Dr. Praeger’s brand patty made with carrots, zucchini, peas, spinach and broccoli.
In full-service restaurants, build-your-own burgers increased 28%, turkey burgers grew 15%, and veggie burgers rose 13%.
For just over half of burger eaters, topping variety is important, and gourmet buns and garnishes offer artisan appeal, Technomic said. Limited-time offers recently served at Wendy’s included such elements as a brioche bun, smoked gouda cheese, blue cheese herb aioli and spring mix.“Specialty ingredients like pretzel buns can enhance the value perception, and unique toppings and sauces, stuffed patties and premium sides can add to craveability and brand differentiation,” Ms. Monette said.