Consumers might be more health-minded than in years past, but that doesn’t mean they’re shying away from comfort food—at least Dave McDougall doesn’t think so. The CEO of Nashville-based Back Yard Burger knows the importance of indulging ever so often.
This month, the better-burger brand introduced a limited-time burger, two sides, and dessert just in time for the holidays. The Bacon Mac & Cheese Burger, Chili Mac & Cheese, Bacon Jalapeño Mac & Cheese, and Red Velvet Milkshake are available system-wide through the end of January.
“This isn’t going to be for everybody … but the reality is there are times we like to indulge and treat ourselves. It’s for those guests that whatever that particular time is for them, they can try something new,” McDougall says.
Last year, Back Yard Burger tested these LTOs in its home market, and all four performed very well, McDougall says. Since the official rollout earlier this month, the savory LTOs have exceeded the company’s expectations. McDougall even says stores were running low on the product at hand when the next shipment arrived.
The Bacon Mac & Cheese Burger features a layer of white Cheddar macaroni noodles. For the two items, the Mac & Cheese takes center stage with flavorful toppings of chili or bacon and jalapeños. Red Velvet might seem like an outlier given the sugar haze of gingerbread, peppermint, and other holiday flavors at this time of year, but McDougall says the brand is tapping into one of the hottest flavors especially for ice cream and frozen treats. And like the Mac & Cheese items, the Red Velvet Milkshake has also been well received.
Such market research helps inform Back Yard Burgers’ ideas for new menu items, but the process of executing and then vetting those ideas is quite different.
The brand’s director of culinary and food safety Angela Vega stays up-to-date on the latest trends from different chefs around the country and shares this information with the team. However, the menu development process is not entirely in house.
“Normally, once we get ideas for a potential product like the Bacon Mac & Cheese, then we utilize our e-club, which is a large database of loyal Back Yard Burger guests, and we’ll just put these ideas out there and see what [their] intent to buy would be,” McDougall says. “It’s always kind of amazing to us how passionate people get.”
At the end of January, the Mac & Cheese specials will be removed from the menu to make way for a new grilled salmon burger (just in time for Lent and lingering New Year’s resolutions).
Beyond that, McDougall says Back Yard Burger has a menu and promotions calendar built out through at least the next 12 months. In fact, the brand is already market-testing LTOs for next December.
“There are things you can do quickly but most of the time, the planning for your manufacturer, for your distributor, for getting your stores wrapped up [makes it] a good 12-week process that has to be undertaken to hopefully pull it off and do it well,” McDougall says. “At least get a plan laid out, that doesn’t mean you can’t adjust for change.”
By Nicole Duncan