Burger Mania

April 20, 2011: Burger Mania

Hamburgers might be the very last food you’d think would be hot and trendy. After all, is there an American town that doesn’t already boast either a McDonald’s or a homegrown favorite burger joint? But Americans consume 14 billion burgers a year. Yes, 14 billion, which averages out to 47 burgers per American annually.

So even with the landscape already so crowded, there’s still room for more competition in the burger market. And what’s most interesting this time around is that burgers are sizzling at both the low and high ends of the market.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently wrote about all the upscale burger joints opening across the city. Apparently one of the keys to success in the gourmet burger business is that there’s more to a burger than the beef. Upscale burger joints are serving burgers made out of the usual beef, turkey and chicken-but customers can also order sausage, bison, lump crab, lamb or salmon burgers. Almost every one of the upscale burger joints mentioned served veggie burgers, which is important, since more and more Americans are forsaking meat (a topic for another day).

Across the country in Los Angeles, the local media is abuzz with what they dub the “burger war” between local burger fave In-N-Out (which has a cult-like following) and the upstart Five Guys Burgers and Fries, which is closing in on 800 locations nationwide. Five Guys prices its burgers a  bit higher than the typical fast-food burger chains, and its phenomenal growth is helping set the pace in the surging fast-casual food category.

If you’re thinking about getting into the food business, this trend is breaking now, so you need to act quickly. If you already own a restaurant, then consider playing up your burger offerings-make them big and make them fancy. In Pittsburgh, they’re calling them “burger bars” which helps justify the relatively hefty price tag.