Beyond beef

by Rebekah Schouten
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Burger King's Flame-Grilled Chicken Burger
Burger King recently released its new Flame Grilled Chicken Burger, featuring a chicken burger patty.

CHICAGO – Alternative burgers are on the rise in restaurants, as beef burgers give way to leaner meats and vegetarian eats.

Chicken burgers top the list of fastest-growing burgers on menus, rising 23 percent since 2013 on limited-service restaurant menus, according to Technomic. Burger King recently released its new Flame Grilled Chicken Burger, featuring a chicken burger patty, tomatoes, lettuce, mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles and onions on a brioche-style bun.

“We’ve never seen more interest in chicken burgers than we do today, so we’re excited to now offer them to guests everywhere,” said Eric Hirschhorn, CMO, North America, for the Burger King brand. “Our guests tell us they love the taste of our burgers because we fire grill them over an open flame, so now we’re taking what we do best and applying it to a burger made of chicken.”

McDonald’s also has been testing chicken burgers in the Tampa Bay, Fla., area. The burgers feature a quarter-pound ground chicken patty made of a blend of breast and thigh meat. The Classic version offers red onions, lettuce, tomatoes and ranch sauce, while the Signature variety includes grilled onions, lettuce, tomatoes and a “signature” sauce. Both are served on a potato bun.

Turkey burgers also are growing in popularity; the appearance of turkey burgers on menus in full-service restaurants has risen 15 percent since 2013, according to Technomic. In November, White Castle unveiled three turkey sliders featuring Butterball turkey burgers topped with ingredients like sweet potato waffle fries, cranberry sauce and bistro sauce.

Wendy's Black Bean Burger
Wendy’s just launched its new Black Bean Burger, featuring a patty that consists of a blend of black beans, corn, roasted peppers and spices.

Veggie burgers also are gaining steam. Since 2013, the amount of veggie burgers on menus has climbed 10 percent in limited-service restaurants and 13 percent in full-service restaurants, according to Technomic. Wendy’s just launched its new Black Bean Burger, featuring a patty that consists of a blend of black beans, corn, roasted peppers and spices. Served on a 7-grain bun, the burger is topped with Pepper Jack cheese, spring mix, ranch and tomato.

In March, White Castle added a veggie slider to its menu, featuring a Dr. Praeger’s brand patty made with carrots, zucchini, peas, spinach and broccoli.

“Incorporating non-beef proteins can help lower costs and broaden the range of needs that burgers can satisfy,” said Sara Monnette, vice president of Technomic.

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