Building better burgers is both an art and a science, informed not just by the latest trend information, but expert knowledge as well. Leverage our insight – gleaned from decades of developing superior patties – to select the right products for your needs, troubleshoot cooking challenges and serve winning preparations that keep your customers coming back for more. Explore:
Think fresh burgers are always preferred over frozen? Think again! In recent testing, Cargill frozen burgers delivered a sensory experience comparable to fresh, with results showing little difference in consumer acceptability.
Frozen scores higher in flavor and texture
Cargill Frozen Tenderform Patties outscored fresh alternatives on some of the critical attributes that matter most to your guests:
• 8% higher in overall acceptability
• 13% higher in overall flavor
• 7% higher in overall texture
Don’t forget frozen’s performance benefits
In addition to an incredible taste experience, frozen burgers offer vital back-of-house benefits that make a huge difference to your bottom line:
• Consistency – cooking up with the same premier attributes every time
• Cost savings – zero waste, a longer shelf life and reduced labor costs
• Efficiency – easy prep, no slacking and portion controlled
• Safety – rigorous E.coli testing, reduced spoilage concerns and more
Learn more! Get all the details on the Fresh vs. Frozen Faceoff.
Crafting a burger menu that produces a stellar bottom line takes careful planning.
Between ever-evolving flavor trends and the growing fandom within the burger category, you’ve got to do all you can to get your burger lineup just right. Use these tips to build a multi-tiered strategy that delivers big flavor and high margins.
Dig into the numbers
Do you know which burgers are your all-stars, or what your profit margins are across your lineup? The secret to maximizing profitability is in the numbers.
Research your past-year burger sales results, and pinpoint which items are driving profits. This means knowing the total cost of each offering, down to the individual inputs, as well as their markup percentages. Give concepts with low margins or poor performance the boot, and set benchmarks to gauge future results and guide decision-making going forward.
Master your markup
A 300% markup is an unwritten rule of the industry—but it’s not a hard and fast one. Your pricing must fit your brand promise and the value your customers seek. Evaluate your portfolio to make sure you’re getting your burgers’ worth—especially for your signature items.
Portion control is one trick to managing profits. Strict plating protocol will help you serve consistent amounts and predict input costs with confidence. Pre-made, premium frozen patties, such as TNT™ burgers, make portion control easy and also minimize prep and labor, while letting you charge a little extra for a higher quality burger experience.
A compelling, well-organized menu is a must-know trick for kicking your sales up a notch. Highlight your high-margin dishes with tempting pictures and eye-catching design elements—and watch your profits increase across your menu.
Stay price competitive
Put on your detective cap and visit local restaurants and their websites to learn how your competition is pricing their menus. Pay special attention to the burgers that are similar to your offerings and adjust your prices if necessary.
Implement a tiered burger patty strategy
The idea of a multi-tiered strategy is threefold. First, build a core portfolio of patties that also give you menuing flexibility. Second, optimize inventory and storage with a minimal number of SKUs that have maximum applications. Finally, better manage your customer’s expectations. Stack them all together and you’ve got one mega-margin burger menu.
Appetizers – Starters are often geared toward affordability. A slider-style patty offers bite-size and pennywise appeal, and the versatility to craft winning, beefy signature apps—burger or not.
Kids’ menu – What’s most important for kids’ menus? Child-size portions and parent-friendly prices. Not only is a slider suitable for your apps, it’s a great fit for kids’ needs, too. It’s worth noting that today’s youth are more open to adventurous tastes. For real-deal kid appeal, try clever burger creations, such as a Pizza Burger Slider built on a pretzel bun, or BBQ Burger Bites made from cubed burger patties, melted cheese and barbecue sauce, all wrapped in a crescent roll.
Mainstream burgers – For your tried-and-true creations, opt for a patty that provides a balance of great taste, menuing versatility and a price point that fits your margin goals.
Signature concepts – The burgers that make your menu stand out deserve a premium patty. Be conscious of your customers’ pricing expectations, though—and the market’s, too. But don’t be afraid to go big! Some concepts are so distinct that they can help you break from the traditional burger pricing paradigm and add a little more to your bottom line.
LTOs – Craveable limited-time offerings demand higher price points, but you should rarely need to bring in a unique SKU for these short-lived creations. Be sure the patties you select for your mainstream and high-end burgers will suit your future LTOs, to help you preserve your markup.
As the eternal debate of fresh vs. frozen rages on, three simple letters are often the topic of conversation: IQF. Do you know what this acronym stands for and how it can make an unbelievable impact on your menu and operation? Read on for the lowdown on Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) patties and how they can give your burger business a boost.
What is IQF?
Individually quick frozen technology is a means to rapidly chill foods—from fruits and veggies, to waffle fries and burger patties—into an unchanging state. No preservatives needed here—just the subzero temperatures naturally created by cryogenic CO2 or liquid nitrogen. This icy blast of cold “locks patties in time,” setting up operators with the following business-enhancing benefits:
The genius of IQF technology is in its ability to capture must-have burger attributes. What goes in is brought back to life at your cooking convenience: beefy juiciness, tempting textures, and mouthwatering flavors provided by seasonings, sauces, glazes, marinades and ingredient add-ins. You can find IQF patties in “hand-formed” shapes, too, which you can leverage for premium, “fresh-made” appeal.
The simpler your processes, the more successful and efficient your kitchen staff will be. Beyond being pre-formed, pre-sized and pre-seasoned, many IQF patties can be cooked up from their frozen state—on a flattop, charbroil or open-flame grill. With less prep, dishes move from kitchen to table faster, which keeps your customers happier. What’s more, IQF opens doors for year-round availability of products you can’t get fresh or don’t have the expertise to craft in-house.
Count on IQF patties for burger goodness every time, so you can deliver memorable burger experiences, even with rookies manning the grill. Plus, IQF patties dominate fresh patties on hold times—TNT™ burgers hold for 3+ hours, for example—and offer reduced shrinkage, to minimize costly throwaways and preserve your reputation for burger excellence.
As much as 10% of food purchased in foodservice environments is tossed before it makes it to the plate, according to recent studies. To kick waste to the curb and protect their profits, many operators are turning to IQF patties. No excess product, gristle or bone here, just the good stuff—and it holds for up to 12 months in a properly regulated commercial freezer. Some frozen varieties, such as TNT™ burgers and JJ’s Tavern Patty® products, have a price-stable structure, too, helping you to minimize your exposure to the up-and-down volatility of beef markets.
Harmful bacteria thrive in the warmth and moisture of commercial kitchens, so proper meat handling procedures are a must. IQF technology makes food safety a little easier. Pre-formed and ready-to-grill direct from the freezer, frozen patties reduce handling and chances of cross-contamination.
Between managing food quality and safety, and balancing budgets and inventory, running a restaurant can be a lot to handle. IQF technology is playing its part to help operators not just keep up but get ahead in the fast-paced restaurant world.
Following proper meat handling and cooking protocols not only protects your patrons, but your reputation as well. Cross-contamination is the most common culprit for foodborne illness, and requiring your employees to follow these guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will help ensure the food you serve is as safe as it is delicious.
Regardless of how you prepare your burger patties (charcoal grill, flat-top grill, broiler or oven), the USDA recommends cooking the meat to an internal temperature of 160°F to kill most harmful bacteria. Use a calibrated meat thermometer to check the patty’s temperature in multiple locations to ensure it is properly cooked all the way through.
Q. Can I cook a burger to a customer’s desired doneness?
A. For the safety of your operation and your patrons, Cargill follows the USDA recommendation to cook burger patties to an internal temperature of 160°F to kill most harmful bacteria. Use a calibrated meat thermometer to check the patty’s temperature in multiple locations to ensure it is properly cooked all the way through.
Q. Why use a seasoned patty?
A. Our seasoned patties – including our TNT™ products and JJ’s Tavern Patty® products – are already infused with a robust, beefy flavor that maximizes the taste experience while minimizing added prep. You can confidently serve seasoned patties knowing they will deliver flavor without extra back-of-the-house work, saving on labor and prep time while increasing operational excellence.
Q. What are the advantages to using a frozen versus a fresh offering?
A. The biggest benefit of frozen patties is the control they give you. Many patties – such as our TNT™ burgers and JJ’s Tavern Patty® brand products – are Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) for added convenience and are made to be cooked from a frozen state. This allows you to cut prep time, save labor and reduce shrink while simplifying handling and storage. It’s worth noting that, in many taste tests, frozen patties perform as well as fresh in terms of flavor delivery, texture, juiciness and mouthfeel.
Q. What are the advantages to using a fresh versus a frozen offering?
A. The “fresh” movement has a loyal following among restaurant goers. New technologies are helping to overcome traditional “fresh” concerns such as shelf life. For example, our Fressure® products use a High Pressure Processing technology to offer key bottom-line benefits such as longer shelf life and enhanced food safety – while also delivering fresh taste, consistent quality and an irresistible hand-shaped appearance that will create some buzz for your menu.
Q. Do you offer “natural” patty options?
A. Our Cedar Canyon® products are naturally crafted* with no added ingredients, to help you capitalize on this growing trend and serve up the “natural” offerings consumers are demanding more and more. The Cedar Canyon® brand features a prime rib burger sure to satisfy consumer preferences for upscale flavor profiles.
*Minimally processed, no artificial ingredients
Q. I want to offer my customers seasoned products with limited ingredients and/or clean labels.
A. JJ’s Tavern Patty® products offer a signature seasoning that delivers the classic burger taste consumers crave with fewer ingredients and no allergens. Made using our proprietary process, JJ’s Tavern Patty® burgers have a tender, meaty texture that stays flavorful and juicy every time. No added MSG and gluten-free are additional selling points for health-conscious patrons.
Q. I need a product that is gluten free with no added MSG.
A. Loved by customers in countless restaurants, our popular JJ’s Tavern Patty® products feature an extra benefit: they’re gluten-free with no added MSG. These burgers are made from a proprietary process, offering a signature seasoning that produces a classic burger taste while staying flavorful and juicy every time.
Q. I want a burger that gives my customers a hand-formed look and feel.
A. Cargill Value Added Meats Foodservice has a variety of sizes and shapes from which you can choose. Our TNT™, JJ’s Tavern Patty®, Cedar Canyon® and Maverick® products – as well as patties featuring our Fressure® technology – are available in a homestyle, natural shape – which is growing in popularity with burger lovers.
Q. What makes Angus special?
A. 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 bigger bite of the growing “better burger” market 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.
*Technomic, “The Burger Consumer Trend Report,” 2011
Q. How can Angus burgers help me grow my business?
A. Even in tough economic times (or perhaps because of them), consumers want premium offerings – 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, Angus burger feels like a splurge without breaking the bank.
*Technomic, “The Burger Consumer Trend Report,” 2011
Q. What burger toppings are most popular?
A. 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. To learn more about current burger and topping trends, check out The Total Burger. You’ll find on-trend information on the popular burger builds that consumers are demanding in today’s marketplace.
Q. What sauces do you recommend for my burger menu?
A. Consumers overwhelmingly still prefer their burgers slathered with traditional condiments such as mayo, mustard and ketchup. Mayonnaise is the top condiment menued across LSR and FSR segments.* This gives operators like you the perfect platform for flavor experimentation, by putting your own twist on tradition while answering consumers’ growing desire to have home-made ingredients. Kick up your barbecue sauce with chipotle notes or spice up your mayo with herbs, which will also help you demand a premium price point for your burger menu items.
*Technomic, “The Burger Consumer Trend Report,” 2011
Q. What is the most popular burger size?
A. The most purchased burger size is the 4 oz. However, the 5.3 oz has also been a favorite among restaurant operators. Depending on your specific needs, Cargill Value Added Meats Foodservice has a variety of shapes and sizes for you to choose from.
Q. How do I improve my burger offering?
A. Our sales team is prepared to walk you through what products and/or varieties would meet your specific burger needs. Whether your back-of-house operations require a seasoned, frozen patty option or a fresh offering, we will show you which products meet your individual operational needs while also helping you increase foot traffic and sales by offering one of our proven burger products. Contact your sales rep today or contact Cargill directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to start the process of building a better burger platform.
Q. What makes the TNT™ patty an award-winning burger?
A. Our TNT™ beef patties were put to the test by a third party of independent chefs and came out on top, scoring high marks in flavor intensity, flavor balance and aroma, and earning the ChefsBest® Foodservice Award for Best Tasting Burger* since 2007. This distinction puts TNT™ beef patties among some of the finest products in America and makes our burgers a surefire winner for any restaurant.
*The ChefsBest® Award for Foodservice is awarded to the brand rated highest overall among select brands by independent professional chefs.
Q. How are you ensuring the safety of your products?
A. Our goal is to provide the safest food possible – every serving, every time. Producing the safest food possible is absolutely critical to the ongoing success of our business and your business. We use advanced technologies throughout our plants, and invest time, money and the talents of our people in food safety innovation. We also work with others in and out of the industry to help solve food safety challenges. Our Food Safety System is built on three pillars: Raw Material Supplier Approval Program, Verification Sampling and Testing Program, and Research and Development Initiatives.
We hold every supplier to our rigorous requirements. We audit and monitor our suppliers to ensure compliance and will not do business with suppliers that fail to meet our food safety standards.
A robust pathogen-testing program plays a very important role in risk reduction, but it is not the complete answer. We continuously review and modify our testing procedures to incorporate evolving scientific insights and the development of new and better-testing methodologies.
Even with all of the progress made in food safety, we are not satisfied. Through significant investments in science and innovation, we continuously seek ways to further reduce the risk of food-borne illness and to advance best practices in our business and throughout the industry. This is bottom line for us – we are committed to help meet the challenges of ensuring a safe food supply.
Q. Why would I want to use Cargill burger products over the competition?
A. At Cargill, we put everything we know into every burger you serve. From start to finish, along the entire supply chain, our team of diverse professionals delivers expertise in the ground-beef business, including food safety, risk management, innovation and operational excellence.
Q. Does Cargill practice humane treatment of animals?
A. We are committed to being at the forefront of animal welfare practices, and our animal welfare programs are in compliance with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements. We ensure that the livestock and poultry under our care are raised in an environment that satisfies their physical, nutritional and health requirements, and that they are cared for in a manner that minimizes distress. Responsible supply chain examples include our:
Training and certification program: In the United States, where we have our largest meat processing operations, every employee in contact with beef cows undertakes an industry-leading, humane animal-handling training and certification program.
Monitoring: We are also the first company of our size to introduce independent 24/7 video monitoring at all our North American beef, pork and turkey facilities. The program is designed to help plant operators teach and monitor performance in animal handling.
Quality assurance program: We were the first in the industry to institute a policy of purchasing hogs only from farms that have been certified under the National Pork Producers Council's Pork Quality Assurance Plus (PQA+) program, which includes animal welfare standards.
A little unsure as to the meaning of some of the terms thrown around in the beef world? Read on for some meaty definitions:
Lean to Fat Ratio
This ratio will appear in “slashed” numbers, with the lean content before the slash and the fat content after the slash – such as 75/25, 80/20, etc. For example, “80/20” means 80% lean and 20% fat. The combined number will always equal 100%. Note: burgers with less than 15% fat will be drier and less tasty.
Scoring product can be used to achieve a variety of functions, including decreased cook time, increased surface area and enhanced aesthetics and texture. It also helps prevent cooking defects, giving you more servable patties and less waste. Types of scoring include:
• Knife – produces narrow score marks and helps reduce delamination caused by fat or grease trapped inside the patty
• Waffle – produces a wider and squarer pattern, creating a more uniform shape for consistent cooking
• Rolled – creates a patty with a unique, hand-formed appearance that gives off a higher-quality aesthetic appeal
• No Perforation – some patties feature no scoring at all
A “natural” product is one that contains no artificial ingredients or added colors and is only minimally processed. “Minimal processing” means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term “natural” (such as “no artificial ingredients; minimally processed”).
The term “certified” implies that the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Agriculture Marketing Service have officially evaluated a meat product for class, grade or other quality characteristics (for example, “Certified Angus Beef®”).
Certified Angus Beef® is a registered trademark of Certified Angus Beef, LLC.
Angus, Wagu (Kobe)
A breed of cattle that is associated with higher quality. If labeled “Angus,” 100% of the raw materials used must come from an Angus source, unless qualified (for example, “Angus and Beef Patty”).
Chuck, Sirloin, Ribeye
The cuts of meat that must be used as the raw material source.
Source grind and flavor aren’t the only factors that differentiate one patty from the next. Other factors, such as scoring, shape and size are important considerations when choosing a patty, as they affect cook time and presentation. Here’s what you should know so you can make informed decisions.
Scoring, or perforating one or both sides of the patty immediately prior to freezing, allows for faster, more even cooking and can boost aesthetic appeal and texture. Scoring also helps prevent cooking defects, giving you more servable patties and less waste.
Using mold plates or rollers, patties can be formed into a variety of shapes, including round, oval, square and homestyle. While round patties are the most common, homestyle or natural shapes are growing in popularity as they imply “premium” and “freshly made,” which can help operators command a higher menu price.
The ideal patty shape and “reach” for your particular application will depend on the other ingredients in your burger concept. For example, if you’re using a larger square ciabatta bun for a specialty burger, a wider patty such as our Maverick® patty will work best for optimal bun coverage. For a more premium concept that features locally sourced toppings, a homestyle patty – such as our Cedar Canyon® options – offers the hand-crafted appearance that appeals to quality-seeking customers.
“Bigger is better” seems to be the top trend in terms of patty size, but it’s not necessarily the best buying approach. Whether you build your burger concept bun-first or patty-first, the size of your patty should be equal to the size of your bun. If the bun is too big, it can overpower the patty and your customer will get a mouthful of bread. If your patty is too big, the meat and toppings can overwhelm the bun, leaving a soggy mess in its wake. So, regardless of the patty size you choose, balance is key.
All patties are not created equal. When selecting the right burger patty for your particular application, there are many factors to consider. Here’s a quick guide to some common patty characteristics and how they impact the finished product.
What – and where – are they?
“Source grinds” represent a fast-rising segment within the burger world – a trend worth keeping your eye on. By definition, “source grinds” are cuts of beef that are definitively “sourced” from certain preferred areas of the animal. As such, they are perceived to offer higher quality and, in general, a more satisfying taste experience for restaurant patrons. The most common and popular source grinds include:
Prime Rib – a premium cut from the lean interior of the animal’s first rib (aka the “prime rib”), known for its decadent fat marbling.
Sirloin – a leaner, superior-quality beef coming from the most tender cuts of meat.
Ground Chuck – a juicy cut delivering a robust, beefy flavor and moderate fat content.
Ground Round – a hind cut that’s a consistent performer and provides a great “value” option.
Brisket – cut from the animal’s forequarter, brisket is created from two different muscles (one flat and lean, one more fatty); perhaps best known for being cured.
Two trends in one
So why have these grinds become so popular? They represent a convergence of two thriving trends:
The quality movement: Burger lovers are always on the lookout for a more distinctive and delicious burger experience – one they’re willing to pay more for. Operators are adding value and uniqueness to their menus by incorporating these grinds into their burger lineup – and charging a premium for them, too.
The “food sourcing” wave: For reasons varying from nutrition to personal ethics and the environment, more consumers are taking the time to find out where their foods are coming from. Being able to recognize identifiers such as “chuck” or “sirloin” in burger menu descriptions gives consumers a sense of familiarity and comfort, and connotes that “premium” image every operator wants to be associated with.
Beef is a versatile food that’s relatively easy to customize, depending on the form you’re working with. Adding vegetables, seasonings, cheeses and other “mix-ins” to create burgers with signature appeal is a smart way to differentiate your menu – and many operators are doing it. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when exploring mix-in possibilities:
Find the right beef form:
Pick your vegetable:
Be choosy with cheeses:
Protein manufacturers and foodservice operators alike are embracing the growing “blended proteins” trend – combining ground beef with everything from ground chicken or turkey to shredded pork or prosciutto. It’s a way to create value and expand possibilities within the burger segment. For many operators, it’s a win-win, as it helps them lower costs while also highlighting something “new” on their menus. Though we don’t currently offer blended proteins at BurgerCravings.com, we can serve up some insights on the benefits of adding them to your lineup:
SEASONED VS. UNSEASONED
Choosing to carry seasoned versus unseasoned patties (or a combination of both) is one of the key decisions you’ll make as an operator. Here are the highlights of each:
The Case for Seasoned:
The Case for Unseasoned:
In the end, it’s all up to you, your menuing goals and the talent and creativity of your staff. Choose the options that work best in your operation.
FRESH VS. FROZEN
Like so many of your ingredient choices, the fresh-vs.-frozen burger debate has an impact on your menu, your bottom line and your reputation. It’s important to remember that most of your patrons simply want to sit down and enjoy a great burger. If you can deliver on that, you’ll win them over and bring them back. Beyond that, there are advantages and implications with each patty form:
Remember: You MUST cook your patties to an internal temperature of at least 160°F.