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Report: The juiciest burger trends and insights

6 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

(Photo: Flickr user Katherine Lim)

Whether it’s a fresh-cooked burger made on your grill, a mini cheeseburger slider from your neighborhood pub, or a classic lettuce-tomato-pickle burger from your favorite fast food chain, chances are you’ve had some type of burger recently. In Datassential’s latest MenuTrends Keynote Report on burgers, we found that three out of four Americans consume at least one burger in any given week. In our extensive report, we showcase key insights on what types of burgers consumers eat most, where they eat them and how operators can get a piece of the burger business.

Burgers 101

Being able to grill outside is the top reason consumers eat burgers at home. Otherwise, for the majority of Americans, burgers are an away-from-home affair. The speed and ease of purchasing a burger at a restaurant is the main barrier to at-home consumption, but even so, the majority of consumers still would rather create burgers from scratch at home, versus using frozen or pre-formed patties. With that in mind, retail products that ease in-home preparation could perhaps be the key opportunity to increasing in-home burger consumption.

Burgers are available at nearly half of all restaurants, though, making it easy for consumers to prefer eating burgers away from home. Burgers are a highly accessible food for most people – whether it’s a walk to an independent bar to satisfy a burger craving, or a planned trip to a Michelin-starred restaurant. And while full-service restaurants are more likely to serve burgers, the vast majority of away-from-home burgers are actually purchased at limited-service establishments. With their sheer number of locations, national QSRs such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King dominate the burger marketplace and remain top-of-mind choices for consumers. Customization, however, is the most likely factor driving away-from-home consumption – and outside of those traditional QSRs, consumers are turning toward fast-casual better-burger chains. Ultimately, consumers want it all: a reasonably priced, high-quality, made-to-order, customized burger.

At Chicago-based Epic Burger, it’s all about letting consumers craft that ultimate burger. Epic’s “more mindful burger” is all-natural, hormone-free, and freshly made. A step-by-step menu allows customers to choose a choice of protein, such as a turkey burger or portobello mushroom; a wheat bun or lettuce-wrapped burger; Wisconsin cheeses like horseradish havarti or aged cheddar; and additions like avocado, pickles and Epic sauce.

Let’s also not forget one of the current burger heavy hitters of the fast-casual world, Shake Shack. The Shack’s all-natural burgers have continued to sizzle with consumers — an average Shake Shack now does more than $100,000 in sales a week.

Consumers’ favorite burgers

When it comes to crafting the best burger, it first starts with great meat. Two-thirds of consumers say having truly great protein is the most important factor for making a truly great burger. The majority of consumers first reach for beef burgers, but alternative forms, like turkey and veggie patties, both are increasing on burger menus. Aside from the main burger patty, some operators are taking proteins to the next level, adding other meats such as pulled pork, brisket, or prosciutto, on top of burgers.

When it comes to toppings, consumers typically reach for classics like lettuce, bacon, cheddar, and ketchup. Similar to sandwiches, though, burgers are an extremely versatile format that allow for endless creativity. Take a tour around any city and you’ll likely find at least a few operators finishing burgers with unique toppings, from deep-fried pickles or potato chips, to indulgent items like lobster or foie gras. Offering even a few unique toppings can help operators stand out from the competition while also offering customers a unique, customizable experience. Toppings like cranberry, fruit compotes and specialty peppers, have all been trending up on burger menus. And let’s not forget the consumer craze over sriracha — the spicy condiment has grown 160% on burger menus just over the past year. If you’re looking for an answer to the questions, “What’s the next sriracha?” or “What’s the next big burger trend?” be sure to contact us about the keynote report for consumer and operator data that will keep you on top of burger innovation.

The future of burgers

There are many ways for operators to get creative with burgers, especially when considering each main component of a burger — the bun, protein, cheese, toppings, and sauces. Mini burgers (sliders) and stuffed burgers are both of high interest consumers. Luxury toppings, such as truffles, have also been trending. Often mixed into an aioli spread on a burger, truffles have grown 400% on burger menus since 2010.

Because burgers are so mainstream and ubiquitous across restaurants, it’s important for operators to constantly improve upon their burger products to stay ahead of the curve. By incorporating a choice of next-level toppings such as fontina or bacon jam, or perhaps adding an ethnic flair to burgers, such as menuing a Korean BBQ burger, operators can continue to differentiate themselves from the rest of the burger crowd.

Burger innovation is limitless. We’ve already seen burgers made with two bacon grilled cheeses used as a bun (Bernie’s Burger Bus, Houston); burgers stuffed with foie gras, short ribs, and black truffle (DB Bistro Moderne, New York); or colossal burgers topped with a grilled hot dog and Lay’s potato chips (Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s); and there’s no telling what burger creations are on the horizon. One thing’s for sure though: Americans love burgers, and with our MenuTrends Keynote Report, you’ll have access to much more than what we’ve already covered, including what operators menu and what burgers consumers are most excited to bite into.

Maeve Webster is the senior director of Datassential, a supplier of trends, analysis and concept testing for the food industry. For more information about ordering the MenuTrends Keynote Burger Report, contact Brian Darr at


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