Burgers take a battering as kitchen trends shift

Burgers remain the nation’s number one main course dish, but could it be that their popularity has peaked?

Latest research undertaken by foodservice consultancy Horizons shows that some 17% fewer dishes on menus featured burgers compared with last year.

In contrast, hot dogs continue to become ever-popular, appearing on 86% more menus than they did this time last year. Pork ribs are the second biggest riser at 15%.

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The survey found that operators are taking a more inventive approach to burgers, perhaps in a bid to boost sales, offering more gourmet versions of the long-term number one dish.

Horizons said that Britain’s menus continue to reflect the changing nature of eating out, with US dining, street food and healthy eating the main influencers.

Eating out operators are adapting to the changing demands of consumers with menus featuring more handheld, easy-to-eat foods as Brits plump for casual dining over formal occasions.

American-themed dishes continued to gain popularity with the provenance of dishes now referred to on menus. Examples include Chicken Louisiana Skins and New Yorker Crunchy Salad at Frankie and Benny’s, New Yorker on Rye at Pret A Manger and Slow Roasted Pulled Pork Denver Fries at Best Western.

This innovation extends to new variations of old favourites like coleslaw (or ‘slaw) which now comes in a variety of flavours. Blue Cheese Slaw with chopped jalapenos is on the menu at Gourmet Burger Kitchen, with Asian Slaw at TGI Friday’s and Spicy Slaw at Brewer’s Fayre.

Salted caramel is one of the newest flavour combinations to feature on menus. Non-existent in Summer 2010, salted caramel now appears in 37 dishes, growing 12% in popularity year-on-year.

“We are seeing a high level of innovation on menus,” commented Horizons’ director of services, Nicola Knight. “Many of the ideas are coming from the US, but street food and ethnic flavours are also influencing menus. Operators are also working hard at providing customers with something new, often by putting a twist on old favourites.”

Knight said that operators are working hard at giving consumers what they want.

“Breakfasts menus are now offering more healthy options, such as Bircher muesli, while sharing dishes continue to be popular — wings and sliders in particular,” she said.

The survey also reveals how operators are adapting their menus to incorporate some of the latest high street trends. Japanese Katsu dishes are now featuring on some pub and restaurant menus and street foods such as burritos served on planks or ‘trash can’ lids are also becoming more mainstream.

Top six Menurama findings

1. Burgers are still the most frequently found dish on menus, although their popularity has peaked.

2. Japanese Katsu dishes, Middle Eastern flavours and Korean foods are appearing on mainstream menus.

3. Presentation is becoming more innovative with food served on ‘planks’ or ‘trash can lids’ echoing street food.

4. Meal deal promotions are becoming less frequent.

5. Free-from dishes have risen 9% since summer 2013.

6. Sharing dishes such as sliders are a firm favourite on casual dining menus, up 64% since summer 2013.

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