Tough times for the ‘better burger’?

Is the demand for one of our favourite casual dining dishes in recent times declining –  high quality burgers?

Better burgers. Gourmet burgers, Premium burgers, Build-your-own burgers (some brands even promise over 14 million flavour combinations!).

Weird new fillings and toppings, crazy variations on the bun, the perfect meat mix patty, ridiculously stacked choices – too tall to get your chops around, too heavy to hold! But oh so instagrammable!

This constant evolution and development of the humble burger has kept it at the top of the casual dining sector over a number of years now. But have we finally had enough? The big brands in this segment of the burger market certainly seem to be hitting tougher times right now…

GBK – (90 outlets) reporting pre-tax losses of c. £870k recently after 6 years of growth.

Byron –  (70 outlets) reports are it’s looking to close many of its outlets, possibly selling the chain completely,  after a challenging year with a number of senior management changes and decreasing profits.

Handmade Burger Co. (29 outlets) – went into administration back in July 17, having previously announced plans for further significant expansion. It was subsequently sold out of administration and now trades out of 20 sites.

Regionally, Meatcure is now down to just its 1 original site in Market Harborough, having closed 4 of its UK restaurants this year.

So what’s driving this apparent decline? Health and wellbeing? Competition from supermarkets? Pub restaurants? Even McDonalds with their ’signature collection’?

So many places you can now get a decent quality burger in, or at least the promise of one. And of course so many new brands and concepts have entered the better burger segment as it grew, intensifying competition.

In a market of constant new concepts, cuisines, food choices we have never tried before – do we want to visit, as a family or group, a restaurant that just does burgers at it’s core? Especially when these brands extend beyond London and major city centres.

And of course these factors are all compounded by pressures on the UK casual dining sector anyway – Brexit/Sterling price inflation (rising food costs), the rising national living wage, and increasing rents and business rates.

Maybe the up-scaled quality burger just grew a little bit too much for consumer demand and has finally hit saturation point at a time when we as consumers are starting to think more carefully about how much and how frequently we spend on eating out.


Image Source: Greene King, TGI Fridays, Tailpipes, Burger King, Dennis Prescott (header image), Taste Mag, Geekologie, Yelp, Chatelaine, Caitlin Hicks