US restaurants look to burger innovation for growth

Posted by James Ferre on 13th June 2008

The NPD Group, a leading market research company, and Datassential, a foodservice research firm, found that 7 per cent more restaurants, from quick service to fine dining, offer burgers on their menus than did two years ago.NPD, who track and analyze consumer purchase behavior at restaurants, and Datassential, which analyzes menu trends, combined resources to provide restaurant operators with comprehensive market intelligence on emerging menu trends. Of the 300 products researched the burger was found to be one of the greatest

“More restaurants are offering burgers because of the food’s wide appeal,” Michele Schmal, vice president of foodservice product management at NPD, said. “There is less risk because burgers consistently rank among the top foods ordered.”

Burgers made up 14% of all restaurant orders in 2007, which equates to 8.5 billion burgers. The variety of burger options provided additional appeal for consumers and restaurants alike, according to NPD.

Burger Trends

The traditional hamburger bun now competes with more exotic breads like brioche, ciabatta, and multigrain in order to appeal to a wider demographic. Portobellos, peppers, and spinach are increasingly garnishing burgers to go with the more traditional lettuce, tomato and onion options.

Cheddar was found to maintain its place as the most popular cheese for burgers, but pepperjack, parmesan and tillamook have gained ground. Restaurants providing pepperjack burgers grew by 25 percent between 2006 and 2007. Chipotle grew by 55 percent as a burger flavor, followed by aioli with a 33 percent increase.

Restaurants are also re-inventing the burger patty. Angus burgers have experienced double digit growth over the past two years and Kobe burgers, while not widely seen, are experiencing growth in casual and fine dining restaurants. Non-traditional burger patties, like soy, salmon and chicken, are also finding their way on to more menus.

“Restaurant operators are customizing burgers to reflect their cuisine and concept,” says Jack Li, relevance strategist, Datassential. “Burger innovation enables restaurants to differentiate themselves and cater to the unique tastes of their customers.”

The research was based on data from over 5,500 menus, 600,000 current dishes and 35,000 consumers.