Sponsored by Haliburton International Foods
In a crowded burger market, reports show that burger sales may be slowing for some chains, but for others it is still booming. Research from the NPD group, a market research firm, shows that Americans ordered 9 billion burgers in 2014; yet with so much competition, simply menuing a decent burger is no longer enough to capture consumer business. So how can restaurant operators ensure that their burgers are the ones customers want to eat?
Mike Leccese, director of culinary for Haliburton International Foods says the key is finding new twists on the classic burger to stay relevant. Customers who are choosing burgers are already planning to indulge, so many will appreciate burgers that feature exciting new ingredients, such as scratch-quality condiments, flavorful pickled vegetables and artisan cheeses to name a few.
“Now, with people’s knowledge and education on food, restaurant guests are looking for a burger that offers more sophistication, decadence and gratification,” he says.
Here he shares his step-by-step tips for building a better burger.
Starting the top—or the bottom, depending on how you look at it—is the bun. By featuring a high quality carrier that is also unique, restaurants can offer guests something they can’t get anywhere else. Leccese recommends calling out what makes the bun special on the menu.
“Is it brioche, challah or a really cool flatbread?” he says. “I think that’s the first step—something that’s artisan quality and helps tie in the flavor components of the burger.”
Condiments are essential to developing a memorable burger, but if you stick to the same basic ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise, you’re not doing yourself any favors. By using unique, innovative, scratch-quality condiments, a burger can be elevated from mundane to ethereal.
“These are condiments that you normally may not consider in a burger but will catch the consumer’s attention and really drive burger sales,” Leccese says. “We might be talking about a fig mostarda, bacon and caramelized onion jam, or roasted pepper harissa aioli, for example. Using unique high-quality condiments like these can bring authenticity and ethnic relevance to your menu, helping to differentiate your brand further.
Veggies, like condiments are burger staples, but even simple vegetables can be elevated to add texture and unique flavor profiles. For example, Leccese says, you can use pickled vegetables in place of fresh vegetables to further elevate the burger.
“Pickled vegetables add great texture and big flavor,” he says. “The sweet and sourness helps to enhance all of the ingredients in the build while also bumping up the uniqueness.”
If you want to go beyond standard cheeses like American, Swiss, and Cheddar, another option is to use spreads that can take their place. As an added bonus, spreads can easily elevate a burger from standard to premium.
“For example, you could use a spread made with crumbled Gorgonzola, fresh herbs, and roasted garlic puree. These can be combined with a cream cheese base that could add a new level of indulgence to the burger.”
Every good burger is made with great proteins. But even this seemingly basic element of the classic burger—the beef patty—can be upgraded by using blends of flavorful cuts of meat such as brisket, short rib, and chuck, Leccese says. This also gives chefs the freedom to experiment with new meat flavors.
“It doesn’t just have to be your standard beef patty,” Leccese says. “You can expand the burger category further by using unique proteins, such as lamb or pork. For example, try using ground lamb for an ethnic Mediterranean burger or adding bacon or pancetta to a beef blend for a more decadent burger."
No matter what ingredients you choose, Leccese says chefs should focus on using the best available ingredients and be willing to experiment.
By Peggy Carouthers