Staying ahead of consumer and market trends is an important part of keeping your customers happy, but it can also be very time-consuming. We have access to the industry’s most trusted resources – and we’re dishing up a few of the top trends right here so you can spend less time researching and more time building a more profitable burger menu.
Marketing to millennials is the new “it” thing in the food world, and rightly so. They’re our nation’s largest generation, which means they deserve a proportionate amount of attention on your menu. But it takes a special kind of burger to satisfy their cravings for unique creations.
Who are the millennials?
They were born between the early ‘80s and the early 2000s, representing an age group that spans very different stages of life, from smartphone-happy high school teens to grown adults raising families of their own. While they grew up in boomer households, millennials’ values and interests certainly stand apart from those of their parents. Despite having the tendency to watch their bank accounts pretty closely, millennials collectively influence more than $500 billion in spending power each year.
They are generally technology savvy and naturally proficient with social media. In fact, social media isn’t an option for millennials; it’s the glue that keeps them connected to friends and family. Clever operators can tap into millennials’ social habits with dishes that are not only delicious but offer mouth-watering presentations that must be shared online with friends, too.
Millennials are also an ethnically diverse bunch that’s in-tune to worldly cultures, social affairs and travels, which explains their adventurous nature when it comes to food. To help give your menu extra sizzle, we’re taking a look at what’s hot with millennials’ burger preferences today.
Now that’s #spicy
It’s no secret that global flavors are in, and millennials are a daring generation that seeks one-of-a-kind tastes and flavor combinations. Take their taste buds on a savory world tour with a spicy sriracha ketchup, or top a juicy patty with your house-made take on kimchi. For an Instagram-worthy burger experience that’s #spicy, challenge millennials with a burger lathered in buffalo sauce and pile on a scorching, sweet mango-habanero coleslaw.
Divvy it up
As a generation that lives for the hustle and bustle, millennials are big snackers and often dine out with their social circle. Try minifying your popular burger concepts into sharable plates to appeal to group-diners and their wallets. If your restaurant has a take-out menu, consider offering the convenience of portable snack-size items that millennials can take with them on the go.
Let’s talk turkey
Health is a big deal for millennials, but they’re susceptible to cravings like everyone else—and burgers and cheese are two of their favorites. Don’t be afraid to swap the traditional beef for a delicious turkey patty. It still packs in succulent flavor that’s easily dressed up with your favorite seasonings along with classic and creative burger toppings, yet offers a “better for you” halo that appeals to millennials. When asked, 30% of millennials say that the availability of non-beef burgers is important when dining out.
Ad Age, a leading source of intelligence in marketing and media, says millennials “place an emphasis on the importance of organic and fresh” and also value social and sustainability causes. Try giving your burger menu an environmental-focused spin with locally sourced cheeses, sauces and produce. This is a cause millennials are psyched to support!
When it comes to millennials and their food, one thing is certain: they’re always looking for something more. In the ever-changing burger biz, it pays to stay tuned in to the on-trend flavors and styles they crave.
Kerry, Meet the Millennials
Technomic, Inc., The Burger Consumer Trend Report (2013)
The burger—that delicious, iconic American staple—is still going strong in 2014. Crafty operators are leveraging popular flavors in their creations to drive big burger demand. A new report from Mintel illuminates what will be hot this year.
Take it upscale
Sandwiches, including burgers, were the most popular menu section in January 2014. But burger lovers don’t want just any old burger. They’re looking for a “better burger” and want to be wowed by adventurous, top-tier tastes. Step up burger appeal with premium ingredients or bring a unique spin to classic toppings. Not surprisingly, “better burgers” warrant higher prices, helping to enhance your profits!
Sautéed baby Portobello mushrooms with a creamy Boursin cheese perfectly complement fresh-from-the-grill burger flavor. Excite bleu cheese fanatics with a melted slice of bleu paired with a splash of balsamic, sprinkling of green onions, rosemary aioli and peppered bacon. Talk up your recipes, too—emphasizing beef quality and house-made ingredients in your menu.
Let’s get indulgent
For some, the burger symbolizes an unending quest for the next innovative creation to conquer. Don’t be afraid to bring a taste of adventure to your menu and challenge guests with an indulgent LTO concept. Have Cajun seasoned fries? Pile them high under the bun. Serve a lot of meat lovers? Stack a multi-patty burger or put bacon in the spotlight. Want to get crazy? Halve a donut and use it as a bun, or spice things up with a smokin’ hot Sriracha mayo.
Top burger flavors
What flavors are your peers cooking up? Spiciness and heat continue to dominate the burger world, and BBQ, peppered and honey flavors are on-trend now, too. The following flavors have seen the largest gains across burger menus from 2011 to year-end 2013.
% Change 2011–2013
Better for you
While it’s no secret that burgers are a comfort food, astute operators can leverage their craveability and appeal to the health-conscious at the same time with “better for you” (BFY) toppings. Today, the word “fresh” signals quality and great taste. Use “freshly sliced” avocado to cool down a spicy Frank’s Red Hot Sauce glaze. Turkey patties work great for BFY appeal, too—they’re up 27% in popularity from 2011 through 2013. For a light burger that hits the spot, top a turkey patty with sliced tomatoes and a dollop of feta, mint, scallion and fat-free yogurt sauce.
Ditch bland buns
It’s time to think beyond standard white bread, oat and sesame seed buns—because boring doesn’t sell! Class-up your burger with a ciabatta or brioche bun. Make it a craveable guilty pleasure with on-trend pretzel bread. You can also give it a healthy twist with a gluten-free option, or nix the bun altogether for a butter-lettuce wrap.
Source: Mintel, “Burgers—Moving from an American classic to a contemporary dish,” 2014
Premium burgers are all the rage! So what can you do to dress up your burgers and make them stand out from the crowd? Power up your patties with five of the biggest flavor and ingredient trends for 2013:
A variety of hot, spicy flavors always find their way into the mainstream. But this year, smoky flavors are hot, hot, hot! Up the flavor and appeal of your burgers by adding smoked peppers, vegetables and hickory-smoked bacon as toppings or sprinkling on some seasonings such as chipotle pepper, smoked paprika or a mole rub. It’s a sure-fire way to make your sales smokin’ hot, too!
In 2013, bring the Far East closer to home by tapping into emerging Asian flavor profiles to give your burgers an exotic twist. Reach beyond traditional Chinese flavor notes to include Korean, Japanese and even Vietnamese spices and toppings, such as Sriracha hot sauce, hoisin sauce, wasabi mayo, pickled slaw and cilantro.
It’s time to zero in your burger flavor profiles and take them down to the street level! Yes, authentic “street foods” are hot – whether they’re inspired by U.S. locales or intriguing global destinations. Try jazzing up your patties with Louisiana spices to craft a “Nawlins” Creole Burger. Or give your diners a taste of a different place by sandwiching your burgers between artisan-style breads like a jalapeno cheddar roll or pita pocket. Use a toasted pretzel bun, a dollop of mustard and some kraut to make an Oktoberfest Burger. Or dress up your burger with a slice of Brie and a baguette and – voila! — you have a taste of Paris.
Egg It On
The egg was dubbed “Ingredient of the Year” in a recent foodservice market report by Nation’s Restaurant News. Of course, eggs have long been paired with popular proteins such as sausage and bacon in breakfast sandwiches. Why not burgers too? Serve your burger sunny side up, with a fried egg on top. Delight your diners by carving out a bun top, inserting an egg and grilling up a distinctive Egg-in-the-Hole Burger. Or go patty-on-patty by stacking a classic grilled egg patty on top of your burger for a protein-packed taste experience. You can even put a clever twist on the classic Eggs Benedict by using a beef patty in place of the Canadian bacon.
People love crunchy toppings, and now you can craft your burgers to satisfy all their crunch cravings, too. Crunchify your lineup with everything from fried pork, chicken and duck cracklings to dried water chestnut pieces and crushed corn chips. Or, try sprinkling on some kale chips, crispy tortilla bits or pickle-flavored potato chips for added zip. Bring more crunch to every munch with these hot ideas from BurgerCravings.com!
The world has been inundated with studies and anecdotal evidence on gender preferences – from pink vs. blue to daytime TV talk fests vs. sports-talk radio. Can the same be true for burgers? Technomic, the trusted consumer trend company, conducted a 2011 study on the most popular burger preparation methods, even breaking the options down by male-female preferences. Here’s what they found:
Overall, grilled rules
When asked how they prefer their restaurant burgers to be prepared, 36% of total respondents said that grilled burgers were their favorites. In second place was flame-broiled at 27%, followed by char-broiled (19%). Bringing up the rear were broiled (6%) and fried, which registered just 2% approval.*
Men picked grilled (32%) as their favorite, with flame-broiled (30%) a close second and char-broiled a distant third. Women clearly preferred grilled as their #1 choice – at 39% – followed by flame-broiled (24%) and char-broiled (16%).*
Men want it smoky and bold
In analyzing male burger preferences, it’s clear that they go for methods that impart bolder flavors – especially those delivered by flame- and char-broiling. If you use these prep styles, make sure to emphasize critical buzzwords such as “bold” and “smoky” in your item naming and descriptions, for eye-catching appeal. Feel free to add hearty toppings and sauces that add to the taste experience – but avoid ingredients that overwhelm the smoky goodness guys crave.
Women go for the “health halo”
When it comes to their burgers, women tend to be less adventurous, preferring prep methods that produce milder tastes and less-smoky flavors. They’re drawn to the grilled method, however, because of its strong association with lower fat and better health. “Grilled” and “lean” are key themes to call out in your menuing. And consider adding colorful, lighter fare for toppings, such as mellow sweet peppers or even dried cranberries, to appeal to the feminine palate.
The moral of the gender story
Of course, your burger prep methods are likely tied to the equipment you currently have on-hand. But you can use these study results, for example, to reshuffle your burger lineup, enhance your menu descriptions and balance your prep styles to match your male-female customer breakdown and maximize your sales with both genders.
*Source: Technomic, “The Burger Consumer Trend Report,” 2011
Like peanut butter and chocolate, burgers and fries are a match made in heaven. But with evolving consumer preferences and operators looking to attract adventuresome patrons, fries are no longer the only side in town. Though they still top the list of most common sides at burger chains, breaded vegetables are second in line, and quickly growing in popularity.*
New seasonings and dips lend spice to spuds
French fries are experiencing a flavor revolution, and sometimes even becoming a signature attraction in their own right. Zesty options like truffle-parmesan and chipotle-maple are so flavor-packed they can be enjoyed on their own, or tempered with a complementary sauce such as garlic aioli or seasoned sour cream.
Trend-forward operators are offering variety – not just in terms of seasonings, but dipping sauces, too. Innovative condiments such as blueberry ketchup and curry pineapple sauce satisfy consumers’ desire for novelty without adding much to your cost structure. Consider adding a do-it-yourself condiment bar where customers can sample different flavor combinations and customize their taste experience.
Fry this: vegetables get the breaded treatment
Your mother always told you to eat your vegetables, right? While onion rings have been a burger joint standby for decades, other veggies are stepping into the ring and getting a warm reception from restaurant patrons.
Sweet potato fries remain a stellar seller
Consumers still have yet to tire of the French fry’s more nutritious cousin: the sweet potato fry. Appealing to more health-conscious diners, sweet potato fries can be served in either a sweet or savory application, depending on seasoning and sauces. Try a cinnamon-pecan aioli dipping sauce to achieve a sweeter flavor profile, or a spicy adobo sauce to hit the savory end of the spectrum.
*Source: Technomic, “The Burger Consumer Trend Report,” 2011
Where burger toppings used to play a supporting (yet necessary) role, they are now coming into their own – and more often than not getting equal billing with the all-important patty. Consumer palates are changing, and as restaurant-goers become more knowledgeable about ingredients, their interest in non-traditional flavor profiles will continue to grow.
All-American goes global
Burgers are a classic American comfort food. And consumers still prefer their patties topped with traditional ingredients such as tomato, onion, lettuce and pickles. But globally inspired flavors are starting to impact restaurant menus across the country, and consumers are eating it up. Try giving your basic burger some Greek flair with creamy tzatziki sauce, spinach, cucumber, goat cheese and a pickled olive mix. Or go West Indies-style with banana jerk chutney, spring lettuce mix and coconut-mango mayo. If you’re not ready to commit to an entire themed burger concept, start small and introduce individual topping options like grilled pineapple, guacamole or pesto.
Kick conventional into high gear
Just because basic burger toppings remain the most popular doesn’t mean you can’t kick them up a notch and give your burgers some premium appeal.
Burgers for brunch? You bet.
Wild mashups are taking burger menus by storm – and not just in terms of flavors. When breakfast, lunch and dinner dayparts collide, you end up with out-of-the-box concepts like brunch burgers. Not only are brunch sales steadily growing, but consumers are more comfortable seeing dinner items on late-morning menus – especially when they’re reimagined in new ways.
Small has been the new big in food for the past few years, and burgers are no exception. In fact, mini-burgers and sliders have continued to grow in popularity, with almost a quarter of consumers ordering them at restaurants at least once a month (compared to just 16% in 2009).* Mini-burgers are most popular among the 18-34 demographic, but consumption by 35- to 54-year-olds has grown as well.* What’s driving the mini explosion? A number of factors.
Perfect portion control in a fun-to-eat package
Though mini-burgers were first promoted as meal-starters at FSRs and moderately priced snacks at LSRs, more customers are eating them as a meal, especially at lunch when they want a just-right portion. Nearly 61% of consumers who purchase mini-burgers say they are most likely to order them at lunch, with most of these consumers being females, who find mini-burgers appealing for their portion control.*
Sized just right for a snack attack
While women prize the mini-burger for its controlled portion, men are more likely to enjoy sliders as a snack or appetizer. They can satisfy their burger cravings in just a few bites, without overwhelming their appetites. And, the smaller size means consumers can sample a variety of slider offerings without committing to an entire entrée.
Mix-and-match offerings appeal to variety-seekers
Consumers today crave variety and want customization, and mini-burgers, like our TNT™ 2 oz. Seasoned Angus Patty, are the ideal solution. Test edgy menu concepts in mini form before rolling them out as burger entrees, or let customers pick their own “slider flight” from a list of options that changes by the week. Keeping it fresh gives patrons a reason to dine with you regularly, and giving them more control over their meal makes their dining experience more spontaneous and fun.
*Source: Technomic, “The Burger Consumer Trend Report,” 2011
Hamburgers have been an American staple for decades, but that doesn’t mean restaurant-goers aren’t looking for ways to shake things up. Even in tough economic times (or perhaps because of them), consumers want premium – but there’s a limit on how much they’re willing to spend. That’s where the “better burger” phenomenon comes in.
According to consumer research firm Technomic, the “better burger” segment grew 21% from 2010 to 2011, largely because it provides a gourmet offering at an accessible price point.* Consumers might be pinching pennies and cutting back, but a few extra bucks for a premium burger feels like a splurge without breaking the bank.
Capture “better burger” business with premium patties
Consumers rank the quality of meat as the most important aspect of a good burger, and two-thirds say a high-quality cut and type of meat makes a burger premium.* Operators can capture a piece of the growing “better burger” pie by using meats that consumers associate with higher quality, such as Angus, prime rib or sirloin and, in turn, drive revenue with a higher price point.
But better burgers aren’t just about the patty. Consumers who pay more for premium expect an upgrade on the bun and fixins, too. Experiment with trend-forward toppings such as pickled jalapenos or flavor-packed condiments like ancho chile mayo. If your customers are burger purists who favor tradition, you can still up the ante with locally sourced cheddar cheese or housemade ketchup.
Check out our Cedar Canyon® brand patties, available in Certified Angus Beef®, and add premium appeal to your burger menu.
*Source: Technomic, “The Burger Consumer Trend Report,” 2011
Certified Angus Beef® is a registered trademark of Certified Angus Beef, LLC.