Industry News | August 1, 2012

Quick-Serve, Fast-Casual Burger Chains Booming

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The limited-service burger segment is the largest menu segment by revenue in the restaurant industry. It is driven on one hand by McDonald’s, which accounts for half of the segment’s business, and on the other hand by a growing number of “better-burger” concepts, upscaled fast-casual burger players. 

Fast-casual burger chains grew sales by 20.8 percent last year, while all limited-service burger chains grew 3.7 percent. And Technomic sees plenty of room for continued growth, as fast-casual sales are currently only 3.2 percent of limited-service burger-segment sales. 

“Better-burger concepts have a lot going for them. First, they have the benefit of a basic and beloved menu focus. Raising the quality of the protein, bun, toppings, and sides has been a winning formula. And a number of celebrity chefs have opened concepts that focus on burgers made with premium ingredients, helping to raise their profile,” says Technomic's Executive Vice President Darren Tristano. “Plus, the segment includes some of the rising stars of the industry overall.” For example, Smashburger grew sales by more than 71 percent in 2011, and Five Guys Burgers and Fries increased sales by 24 percent.

In order to help restaurant operators and suppliers understand the opportunities with regard to “better-burger,” Technomic has developed the "Market Intelligence Report: Better Burgers" Noteworthy findings include: 

  • Many full-service chains have gotten in on the better-burger action by adding gourmet burgers to their menus, and have opened burger-focused spin off concepts offering build-your-own optionss.
  • Quick-service burger chains have raised the quality of their burger offerings, as well. 
  • Consumers place a premium on quality of their burger: Seventy four percent rank quality/taste of the meat or protein as the most important part of the burger. 
  • Put some cheese on it. Cheeseburgers are the top hamburger type on limited-service burger-chain menus. 
  • Customization is key. Several fast-casual brands offer a build-your-own-burger option, where customers can choose from a variety of proteins, breads, cheeses, toppings, and sauces.

"Market Intelligence Report: Better Burgers" mines Technomic’s exclusive consumer, menu, and industry data to uncover insights and opportunities in the fast-casual burger segment. The report includes data from Technomic’s MenuMonitor online trend-tracking resource, which analyzes the menus of 1,200 of the top U.S. chains, emerging concepts, and leading independent restaurants.

It also features consumer data culled from Technomic’s Consumer Trend Reports and exclusive Consumer Restaurant Brand Metrics, an ongoing attitude and opinion resource. Rounding out the data are operator examples, including the new products and hot concepts driving burger innovation. 

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