As restaurant traffic counts crashed along with the S&P 500, restaurant operators quickly realized they needed to change their business approach if they were going to stay in business. Consumers were craving the familiar and the safe as they sought to reduce risk in all areas of their lives. Many stopped dining out altogether. Restaurant operators responded by glamming up familiar favorites to draw in customers who were in full-on comfort food and cocooning mode.
Chief among the meals getting a makeover is the burger. Fine dining chefs from Bobby Flay to Hubert Keller have made the comforting classic a cravable one, by upscaling it just enough to entice customers back to restaurants.
This burger ‘dress-up’ takes many forms, from different proteins to different buns. But the latest twist comes with the nearly infinite number of toppings offered, from the classic to the outrageous. This includes a variety of fresh, delicious produce.
JalapeÃ±os are popular for fans that like their burgers hot. For a creamy, unique taste and texture, nothing beats avocados. Mix textures and flavors with toppings like coleslaw, caramelized onions, and even grilled pineapple. Layer on specialty lettuce such as romaine or arugula instead of iceberg for a change of pace.
More adventurous burger fans like to mix it up with the condiments to add zest and flavor to their burgers. Consider trading out ketchup for salsa, whole-grain for yellow mustard or even aioli for mayonnaise.
‘Dressing up’ burgers for wider appeal
McDonald’s Third-Pound Angus burger is a highly successful attempt at upgrading its burger offerings by providing customers with a value-added product. It landed McDonald’s at number 7 on Schneider Associates and Sentient Decision Science’s ‘Most Memorable Product Launches of 2009’ Survey.
New restaurant concepts like The Counter allow consumers to build their own gourmet burgers and pick and choose from a variety of mouthwatering seasonal ingredients and unique toppings such as grilled pineapple, dried cranberries, black olives and apricot sauce.
Chicago-based Stanley’s Kitchen and Tap lists an Elvis Burger, a half-pound Angus beef patty topped with house-made pimento cheese, lettuce, tomato, and country-fried onions. The Monday Burger Barn special lets guests top their own burger from a toppings bar with items ranging from grilled mushrooms to olives, corn salad, cucumbers and more.
Topping adventure is not limited to burgers or to the vegetable side of the produce aisle. Sandwiches, entrees and sides also play dress-up with a variety of fruit-based relishes and salsas.
Grilling fruit such as pineapples, peaches and even bananas has been a regular practice in Southeast Asia, and it’s gaining popularity in the U.S. The sugars in the fruit caramelize on the grill, intensifying the sweetness of the fruit. That sweetness blends well with the charred flavor grilling imparts. Just one more delicious way to dress-up a dish.
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