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Mark Bucher, founder of BGR The Burger Joint, is fighting for asparagus’ permanent existence at BGR’s 19 locations.
Starting May 15, he has one month to successfully leverage in-store marketing and a Twitter campaign (#savetheasparagus) to keep asparagus on the menu, or come June 16, it will be a casualty of the french fry wars.
To boost his campaign, Bucher vowed to do something unheard of: remove french fries completely from kids’ meals and replace them with asparagus spears.
“We decided to take it upon ourselves to force the issue a little bit,” Bucher says. “Young kids can’t say they don’t like something until they try it.”
He says he has heard absolutely no backlash about edging fries out of kids’ meals; instead, the response has been positive.
At BGR, asparagus spears, dubbed the Green Standard, are grilled and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. But it is far outshined by its menu companions: the Gold Standard (regular fries), the Orange Standard (sweet potato fries), and onion rings.
“I think people like to say they eat healthy, but when given a choice, they tend to go toward the fry route or the onion ring route,” Bucher says. “But people that eat [the asparagus] love it. I haven’t met a kid yet that doesn’t like it.”
Given the perishable quality of asparagus and its languishing sales, however, Bucher says it was time to issue an ultimatum.
To raise awareness for the campaign, Bucher has in-store signage and a thermometer on the wall tracking sales, while the staff sports T-shirts sprawled with “Save the Asparagus.” If the thermometer surpasses 100 servings in 30 days, Bucher will consider his crusade a success.
Asparagus has been on the menu since the first day BGR opened and Bucher’s mother-in-law entered, skimmed the offerings, and demanded to know where the vegetables were.
“She goes, ‘What’s the rule? You’ve got to have something green with every meal. There’s no green in here!’” Bucher says. “I said, ‘Seriously?’ So I scratched my head, going, ‘This could be a nice way to do something healthier on the menu.’ And then we came up with asparagus fries.”
He says that whether asparagus reigns supreme or ultimately falls to the french fry regime, the goal of the campaign at the end of the day is to raise awareness.
“If one out of 10 kids tries it and likes it, I’ve accomplished my mission,” he says.
By Sonya Chudgar