Business ideas for 2016: Gourmet burgers

Brits are on the hunt for a better burger; whether it's premium fillings, goat meat or veggie options. Take a bite out of this growing market in 2016…

We Brits like our burgers – we even have an annual ‘National Burger Day’ (yes, really). And, while our penchant for fast food burgers from the likes of McDonalds and Burger King remains, our tastes are moving towards the “superior burger”.

According to a report from Mintel in August 2015, 7% of British people have switched from visiting fast food restaurants to gourmet burger restaurants; rising to 12% for those aged 16-34.

With UK burger sales set to reach £3.8bn by 2020 – up from current sales of £3.2bn – the research group has claimed that our rising hunger for a “better, gourmet burger” is also having a positive influence on the overall burger bar market.

Premium burger chain Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) has enjoyed recent success with UK sales of over £1m in 2015, and we believe 2016 will only see gourmet burger bars, street food, and even burger delivery businesses, continue to prosper.

Roll on the burger wagon…

Starting a gourmet burger business: Why it’s a good business idea

There’s no better evidence to support starting a gourmet burger business than research which shows UK consumers want to trade-up their burger choices. 52% of those who’ve eaten, or bought, burgers from fast-food restaurants in the past three months say they’d be interested in trying gourmet burgers.

What’s more, 39% of fast-food goers see gourmet burgers as a healthier alternative and ‘better for you’, so it’s not surprising then that we’ve seen a number of gourmet burger restaurants and bars setting up all over the UK as entrepreneurs look to give the public what they clearly want.

While ‘better burger’ chains such as Honest Burger, Five Guys and Byron Burgers have continued to scale in the UK, there’s no reason that independent burger joints can’t thrive. Street food start-up Mother Flipper, based in London’s King’s Cross, is just one of many independently owned gourmet burger specialists which has gained traction and received major press coverage of late.

Consumers also want more variety when it comes to burger fillings and burgers themselves which opens up the market to budding foodies looking to start a gourmet burger business. Mintel claims that 26% of UK consumers want a greater selection of burger fillings and 24% are interested in burgers made using more premium bread; think gluten-free or vegan options such as sourdough.

The rising trend for goat meat – named “one to watch in 2016” – also presents an opportunity to launch a gourmet goat burger business. High-profile chef Jamie Oliver recently named goat as a ‘meat to watch’, Ocado has just begun to stock goat meat, and a range of restaurants have started adding goat meat to their menus. From our research, Turtle Bay is one of the only restaurants in the UK currently serving goat burgers so 2016 is a great time to get ahead of the curve.

Gourmet burger business opportunities

Given consumer demand for different burgers and burger fillings (as noted above), you’ll have a better likelihood of start-up success if you offer burgers made from alternative meats or use different fillings.

In Nottingham, Annie’s Burger Shack specialises in a ‘Sunday Dinner Burger’ which consists of roast chicken with all the trimmings and gravy while in Manchester’s Northern Quarter you can purchase the ‘Once in a lifetime burger’ which is made up of butterfried milk chicken, pulled pork and bone marrow patty. In Kent, there’s Googies which offers Surf N Turf burgers with prawns and seafood, and in London you can purchase ‘Frenchie’ burgers; Bar Boulud offers burgers made from foie gras and braised rib meat. Or you could even turn the burger concept on its head; Tramontan Brindisa in London specialises in mix-and-match ‘burger tapas’.

Alternatively, you could look to target the vegetarian and vegan market. There are a few players in this space already but they’re mainly street food businesses or café set-ups. Draw inspiration from Borough Market’s Veggie Table which offers the ‘Organic Superveg’ burger made from vegetables, quinoa, nuts and sultanas and offers bun-free options; wrapping the burger in lettuce instead. Or check out The Wild Café which boasts a vegan burger made with olives, shitake mushrooms, salsa verde, and baba-ganoush.

While burger bars, restaurant pop-ups, and street food are the most obvious ways to turn gourmet burgers into a viable business opportunity, you could follow Chosen Bun and start a gourmet burger delivery service. Mintel’s senior food service analyst Helena Childe noted in 2015 that “home delivery represents a particularly interesting potential growth area in the fast food market”.

Other opportunities include creating raw gourmet burgers to sell to supermarkets and food retailers; GBK commented in November 2015 that “shoppers now expect the same size and flavours that they experience in their favourite restaurant”. Or you could reduce your chances of start-up failure and become a franchisee of an established gourmet burger business such as steak burger franchise Steak N’Shake. You can find out more about franchising here.

Insider opinion

Richard Ford, senior food and drink analyst at Mintel has reported:

“The gourmet burger trend continues seemingly unabated, adding value and interest to the burger market. Gourmet burgers have prospered during the economic downturn through their status as an affordable meal that still offers indulgence.

“The ongoing expansion of ‘better burger’ restaurants continues to add value to the market by encouraging trading up. Offering thicker burgers and a greater range of patty meats should provide burger operators with opportunities to further entice customers and maintain their interest.”

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