The Beef Burger: How to describe this menu staple

Classic Beef Cheeseburgers

“Tasty, delicious, and has me craving more on the first bite.” to “Juicy, mouthwatering, tasty, and everything you’d ever want to savor.”

There are many kinds of crave worthy foods. From foods that are sweet and salty to savory, there is one crave-able item that sure gets consumers talking. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, recently conducted research on consumer preferences for burgers when dining out. Consumers’ own words highlight just how enticing burgers are for them.

Many consumers enjoy a beef burger whenever they get a chance, and many of us have our go-to places for one. However, the results show that quick-service establishments aren’t the only places consumers go for a burger. In fact, many also choose casual or even fine-dining establishments to enjoy a burger. 

More specifically, the research looked at the quality indicators for burgers and how consumers go about customizing and selecting their burgers when dining out. The research was conducted among 700 consumers who eat beef burgers. Not surprisingly, the most important aspect of a burger is its taste—after all, that is why most of us enjoy them so much. In addition to taste, the overall quality and the value you get for the price you pay is important, as some consumers note: 

"The quality of beef and price are most important."

" Value. Price vs what I'm getting."

To understand what consumers associate with a quality burger, the research had consumers rank their top five most important factors for one. Like it is for beef in general, a burger that is juicy and fresh is more likely to indicate a quality product to consumers. However, the toppings, cook, weight, and sauce are also important. More so, the cook is a particularly critical aspect to get right on a consumer's burger as there's not one unanimous doneness level consumers prefer.

The research incorporated a menu exercise where consumers were shown different burger menu options and asked to highlight the words that were most enticing. The results from this portion of the research revealed that menu descriptors which discuss the overall size of the burger and how or what it is made with were more enticing overall. Some examples include “flame-grilled,” “smoked”, “angus beef,” and “sirloin.” 

Word cloud of consumer's responses when describing their ideal burger

Size of words based on frequency of mentions of that word

Results also showed how consumers customize their burgers and what preferences they have. When asking them open-endedly to describe their ideal burger, unique toppings and the size of the burger were mentioned often, alongside the quality indicators identified—like the cook and juiciness. Freshness was still frequently mentioned as well. Consumers also used adjectives like “smothered,” “loaded,” “simple,” and “fixings” to describe their burger preferences. Some direct consumer responses highlight all these findings below: 

"Juicy, big, loaded with toppings of my choice."

"High quality beef medium to well with cheese and bacon on a multigrain bun."

"A huge single or triple burger with all the fixings, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions and special sauce or mayonnaise!"

To get a more detailed understanding of consumers’ eating habits for burgers dining out, the research included an exercise for consumers to build their own burger. The top finding is what makes burgers so unique and appetizing: consumer preference varied greatly; they want the ability to customize their own burger. While there isn’t a general consensus, the simplicity of a 4oz burger patty, with bacon, cheese, lettuce, onion, and tomato has the potential to satisfy a good majority of consumers. However, more specific preferences can vary depending on the type of consumer. For example, pepper jack cheese is preferred more by those aged 25 to 34, and BBQ sauce is more likely to be preferred by men and those younger than 34. 

Overall, foodservice operators who have burgers on their menu can do well in understanding what aspects consumers will gravitate towards when choosing a burger. Using more descriptors that inform consumers about the burger’s size, freshness, and juiciness will highlight the burger’s quality. Then allowing consumers to customize their cook and toppings is sure to give them their ideal burger. Offering this kind of burger experience will help ensure the next time a consumer is craving a burger, they know where to go.