Fifty percent of today’s consumers eat a burger at least once a week.* And cravings are the primary driver behind their purchases. To serve crave-worthy burgers that build loyalty, you need patties that align with current consumer desires.
The health halo is important
Attributes such as “natural,” “organic” and “fresh” are increasingly important to health-conscious consumers. According to Bonnie, Riggs, restaurant industry analyst at The NPD Group, the industry is “definitely seeing a health movement, not a fad.”** So, try offering your signature burger “naked,” and served in a romaine lettuce wrap instead of a bun. Using patties with cleaner labels can help you make health-focused menu claims such as “No added MSG- and gluten-free” (provided your other burger ingredients are as well).
Stuffed patties turn burgers outside in
Originating in Minnesota, stuffed preparations that place cheese inside the patty rather than on top are gaining widespread popularity. And the possibilities are endless. Start with a Cargill ground beef patty, mold it around the cheese (and other ingredients) of your choice and cook until the cheese melts for a truly unique offering that turns traditional on its head.
Premium offerings command a premium price tag
Consumers consider the quality of the meat to be the one of the most important factors in what makes a good burger, with 32% of consumer saying it’s an important purchase driver***. And many are willing to pay more for a burger they consider premium. You can increase the quality perception of your offerings by sourcing premium meats such as our TNT™ Angus patties, meats with cleaner labels, or fresh-never-frozen patties, like our Cedar Canyon® lineup.
Mini is the new big
Small plates consumption, like mini-burgers, is up, and smart operators can take advantage. Not only does the small plates trend continue to perform well, but mini-burgers are strong performers across dayparts. Sliders are the perfect size for a quick yet satisfying lunch and they make an ideal appetizer or light dinner, while still fitting consumers’ value equation with a lower price point. Menu with our TNT™ 2 oz. Angus Seasoned Round Mini Patty (Slider) and hit both the mini and premium trends!
When it comes to beef preference, Angus rules
Burger lovers know their beef and, according to the 2019 Technomic Burger Consumer Trend Report, they are still demanding Angus burgers as their #1 choice. However, standard ground beef is a close second, with more premium and exotic cuts such as brisket, Kobe, short rib, sirloin and wagyu trailing significantly behind. Make sure you call out your menu’s beef cuts to maximize appeal to your burger-savvy guests.
The bun might be the unsung hero of the total burger package. Not only is it under pressure to look presentable while containing piled-high burger goodness, it must complement, not overwhelm, the true star of the show – the patty. Choose a bun that’s too dense or too chewy and customers won’t be able to bite into their burgers. A bun that’s too delicate will get soggy and turn your presentation into a flop. So, what do consumers prefer?
Traditional still wins
Though every other part of the burger is getting the “out there” treatment, traditional plain buns remain the most preferred breads for restaurant burgers. Forty-one percent of consumers prefer a white bun, while 33% prefer wheat.*** Other bun types to consider include Kaiser rolls, sourdough, onion buns, pretzel buns, ciabatta rolls, brioche, and more!
Go savory to add more flavor complexity
More than three-fourths of consumers say they would consider ordering savory breads such as sourdough rolls, potato buns or onion buns with their burgers – options that easily add another level of flavor.*** You can also get creative and make the bun an ingredient in your finished concept. Try a jalapeño cheddar or garlic parmesan bun to up the taste factor and the innovation ante.
Think sandwich breads for premium burgers
More than half of restaurant-goers choose ciabatta, French bread or focaccia buns for their burgers.*** These varieties, typically reserved for sandwiches, now lend an upscale touch to burgers, and appeal to consumers who seek higher quality menu items. Just be cautious that your bread’s texture isn’t so dense and unforgiving that it overpowers the patty and its toppings.
Cheese is a great way to add flavor and differentiation to your burger lineup. Cheeses with spicy or pungent flavors like pepper jack or parmesan can add depth, while cheeses with creamy textures or craft sources like brie or goat cheese convey a higher, more premium quality. While consumers are increasingly interested in flavor innovation, they still largely go traditional.
Back to basics
The majority of consumers prefer a more traditional cheese such as American and Cheddar on their burgers.*** These cheeses impart a more mild flavor that accent rather than overwhelm. But basic doesn’t have to mean boring. Incorporating locally sourced varieties or branded cheeses into your menu can help you appeal to premium-seekers and raise the bar on basic.
Don’t be afraid to go stinky and spicy
Cheeses such as jalapeño cheddar, gorgonzola, and bleu are gaining menu traction as consumers become more adventurous. To ensure they don’t overwhelm your burger’s flavor, try tempering them with toppings such as caramelized onions or condiments like lemon aioli.
Be a softie
Soft-textured varieties such as brie and goat cheese can add some worldly flair as well as impart rich flavor. Try spreading an herbed goat cheese on a chewy ciabatta roll for a burger that’s refined yet accessible.
Spice things up with Latin American ingredients
Looking for fresh burger ideas? “Think Latino,” says Cargill Corporate Chef Janet Bourbon. Coax both burger lovers and fans of Latin American cuisine through the door with toppings that sizzle with Latin flavors. From Mexican and Caribbean to Brazilian and Chilean, Latin American cuisine is colorful, diverse and big in flavor—with plenty of inspiration for giving your burger lineup a global spin.
Kick up condiments like ketchup and mayo
Anchos and chipotles are go-to chili varieties for adding some zest to ketchup. Or infuse some smoky sweetness with a blend of guajillo peppers. And to get guests requesting, “mas mayo, por favor,” try livening up a mayo base with a hit of crema (Mexican sour cream), or heating things up with a spicy ancho purée.
Pop in peppers
Try a medley of peeled, roasted green chilies: poblano, hatch, Anaheim and jalapeño. And for customers who like the heat, toss some roasted serranos under the bun!
Opt for elote
Combine roasted corn, mayo, Cotija and lime juice, and you’ll be set to add a scoop of something special to those juicy burgers.
Freshly charred pico
Grill tomato, onions and jalapeños until lightly charred, then chop and combine for a smoky, fresh pico de gallo with robust flavors.
Think beyond cheddar
Don’t forget delicious Mexican cheeses! The creamy Queso Quesadilla is a personal fave of Chef Janet’s, but the mild, smooth Queso Fresco and hard, crumbly Cotija are tasty choices, too.
Have fun with the bun
Switch from flour to masa harina, a corn flour traditionally used in Mexican tamales and tortillas. Or halve a grilled patty and place inside two warm corn tortillas. Add a dollop of pico, or top with cilantro and white onion and you’ve got taco burgers to-go!
Consumers overwhelmingly prefer more traditional burger accompaniments – but that doesn’t mean you have to stick with plain old ketchup and mustard. Condiments and sauces like barbecue sauce, chiles, teriyaki, jalapeño cheese and even peanut butter can give your burgers an unexpected twist.
Go beyond traditional and get gourmet
There’s certainly a time and place for tried and true standbys, but consumers are demonstrating their willingness to be flavor adventurers – so don’t be afraid to give condiments your own signature twist. Spice up mayo with garlic, chipotle or fresh herbs, or try adding unusual ingredients such as candied jalapeños to relish for a real sweet and spicy punch.
Housemade blends add high-end appeal
There’s nothing wrong with ketchup straight from the bottle but making your own – with vine-ripened tomatoes, cinnamon, garlic and Spanish onion – can instantly elevate your burgers to premium status and command a premium price point. Today’s consumers increasingly crave “simplicity,” and respond positively to the DIY aesthetic of craft-made condiments.
*Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner, “Behold the Burger,” 2020
**QSR Magazine, “What Healthy Really Means,” 2016
***Technomic, “Burger Consumer Trend Report,” 2019