“When it comes to burger toppings, anything goes,” he added. Although burger chains are receiving more pressure to further differentiate their products through the type of protein used, bun type, size of the burgers, types of toppings, among other things, trends are entering a zone of normalcy. For a while, burger-topping trends seemed to be driven by chefs offering wild variations, which seemed to dare, “Can you top this?” But a new, emerging trend is providing fewer, high-quality toppings, Hume iterated.
Ninety-five percent of US consumers said they eat a burger a least once a month, according to Chicago-based Technomic Inc., and this won’t change, Hume added. Some casual chains are moving back to emphasizing burgers as this product offers a good alternative to other meat products based on their lower pricing at foodservice.
“Consumers are still price-sensitive,” which appears to have surprised some chains, he added. “The Year of the Bun  crazy-bun craze [pretzel buns, waffle buns, etc.]” appears to be backing off, he continued. Some chains are moving toward baking their own buns or acquiring them from local bakers.
A burger is not a burger. Some burgers are made from custom, ground-beef blends (such as ground sirloin, chuck and brisket), while some burger variations include lamb, pork, chicken and turkey. And beef burgers can be made from a variation of ground beef, including Angus, Kobe, Waygu or grass-fed, just to mention a few.
Matt Troot, executive chef of Chicago’s Three Aces, said his restaurant serves 550-600 hamburgers priced at $15 each, which are made from locally sourced beef that is ground at the restaurant.
“Keep it simple,” he advised the audience regarding making hamburgers. “Quality will always win over quantity. Getting locally-sourced beef is the trend.”
Although more radical burger offerings may be slowing down in the product-development mill, innovative burgers will continue to flood the US foodservice market as what might be radical to one consumer could easily be downright delicious and simply innovative to another. Choices will continue driving this and every other segment of the meat and poultry industry.