Higher beef prices incent casual dining restaurants to add more burgers and consumers to choose burgers over beef entrees.
Against tough competition from other sandwiches and flat to declining restaurant traffic, burgers ordered at U.S. restaurants and foodservice outlets had a banner year in 2014, finds foodservice market research from The NPD Group, a leading global information company. There were 9 billion servings of burgers ordered at U.S. restaurants and foodservice outlets last year, an increase of 3 percent compared to prior year, according to NPD’s ongoing foodservice market research.
Corresponding with the servings ordered at restaurants are ground beef shipments from foodservice distributors to restaurants and other foodservice outlets. Bulk ground beef unit shipments to total foodservice outlets increased by 2 percent, reports NPD’s SupplyTrack®, a monthly service that tracks every product shipped from major broadline distributors to foodservice operators. Bulk ground beef case shipments to quick service restaurants increased by 3 percent, by 4 percent to quick service hamburger restaurants, which drive 70% of bulk ground beef sales, and 1 percent to full service restaurants.
The burger category’s gain is the sandwich category’s loss. Sandwich servings overall declined by 2 percent in 2014 compared to 2013, a servings volume loss of 201 million, finds NPD. Grilled chicken sandwiches, which tend to be burgers’ chief competitor, had a challenging year with a servings decline of 9 percent, a loss of 129 million servings.
Burger serving increases also outpaced foodservice traffic growth in 2014, which was flat for the total foodservice industry and quick service restaurants, and declined by 1 and 3 percent, respectively, at casual dining and family dining (midscale) restaurants. Visits to quick service hamburger restaurants, at which burgers were included in 51 percent of orders, were down 3 percent though hamburger servings were up 3 percent.
Although burgers typically aren’t a top item ordered at casual dining restaurants — only 11 percent of casual dining orders included a burger — burger servings increased by 4 percent. More burgers were added to casual dining restaurant menus to offset higher beef prices and the need to charge more for beef entrees; and consumers chose burgers over higher priced beef entrees. Beef entree servings declined by 8 percent at casual dining restaurants, a servings volume loss of 55 million, reports NPD.
“The success of burgers in 2014 was a combination of factors,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD’s restaurant industry analyst. “Quick service restaurant chains launched new burger items, casual dining restaurants added more burger items to the menu to offset higher beef costs, and Americans simply love their burgers.”