Burgers get an upgrade

by Joanie Spencer
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There’s no doubt that the burger has always been a staple on many restaurant menus, especially in establishments such as quick service restaurants. The burger, however, is beginning to evolve. Citing various research groups including Mintel, Lantmännen Unibake, Lisle, IL, indicated that the average menu price of a burger increased, as of last year, 16% since 2010. It’s hard to argue that the bun hasn’t played an integral role in that rise.

“When I opened my first restaurant in 1989, there was a ceiling on a hamburger or cheeseburger; no one went above $4.99,” said Greg Acerra, owner, Fireking Baking Co., Braintree, MA. “Look at menus now, and people are paying $14.95 for a cheeseburger, and no one really flinches at it.” He chalks this up to the bread because when a server places a plated burger on the table, the first thing the customer sees isn’t the meat, vegetables or condiments; it’s the bun.

“The roll plays an important part in the burger experience because it becomes the center of the plate,” Mr. Acerra said. “It’s really important that if restaurants are going to get these kinds of dollars for a burger, you’ve got to give them a premium roll. That’s the consumers’ expectation.”

 Lantmännen Unibake’s research also indicated that upscale buns such as brioche, pretzel, ciabatta and Kaiser have more than tripled in the past five years and are expected to grow by nearly 33% annually.

In an effort to help foodservice operators more effectively pair burger and bread, Lantmännen Unibake launched the True Burger campaign for its Euro-Bake line. “We offer advice to foodservice operators in terms of recipes and how to construct a gourmet burger or upgrade their burger program,” said Scott Rosenberg, director of marketing and customer service for Lantmännen Unibake USA. To support this campaign, the Euro-Bake line offers brioche and pretzel burger buns.

According to Mr. Rosenberg, Lantmännen Unibake provides a variety of bun offerings depending on what type of burger a foodservice operator wants to offer. “We have buns that may be more dense or softer, depending on the type of burger,” he said, noting that the company can also customize a product for a specific menu item. “For some customers, we can help craft a specific bun or sandwich carrier that meets their needs,” he said.

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