Wednesday, 21 August 2013

In most cases, once I’ve decided the broad thrust of the way my meal’s headed ... Fuller's Tenants Extra May 2013

In most cases, once I’ve decided the broad thrust of the way my meal’s headed, I’m happy to leave the detail to the chef. Having opted for, say, the pork belly or the sea bass, I’ll then let the man at the sharp end of the kitchen decide what trimmings, sauces and side dishes will best accompany it.

However, when it comes to burgers, as far as I’m concerned, the deal’s off. In part, that’s because I’ve been let down too many times by pub menus.  For some reason, chefs who describe in loving detail the various components of most dishes are often disappointingly vague about way they assemble a burger. Simply describing it as a ‘cheeseburger, served with salad’ doesn’t cut the mustard – or even the ketchup, relish or BBQ sauce.
Does it have a splurge of mayonnaise on the bottom half of the bun? If so, you can leave it off mine. Are the onions freshly sliced or caramelised? Fresh for me, please.  Lettuce and gherkin? Lovely. Watery slice of tomato? I’m not so keen. Mature cheddar or processed cheese slice?   Cheddar …well, you get the picture. 

We all have our own preferences when it comes to what makes the perfect burger, something the  growing number  of upmarket burger operators are taking making the most of. This summer sees the arrival in London of two US operators, Five Guys and Shake Shack, who join home-grown brands such as Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Haché and Byron in offering burgers tailor-made to customer’s preferences.
Five Guys offers no fewer than fifteen different options for vegetable and sauce accompaniments to its burgers, which are freshly cooked to order once customers have made their choice. President Obama, when he stopped off at a Five Guys in Washington, chose lettuce, tomato, jalapeno peppers, and mustard as his toppings.

With the barbecue season approaching, now’s the time for pubs to be thinking about revamping their burger menu. Just a few ideas to help boost sales:
·        Make it modular: Offer a range of toppings, sauces and accompaniments and let customers build their own

·        Fresh or frozen: If your burgers are home-made, shout about it, but according to the level of trade, a good quality frozen burger may be a better option

·        Add some choice: Offer chicken, lamb and a veggie burger as alternatives, all of which are available as bought-in options

·        Sliding sales: Sliders are versatile smaller burgers, which can be served as a bar snack, part of a sharing platter, or as a main course selection which gives customers a chance to try a wider range of flavours

·        Add a pint: Above all, remember that burger and beer is a match made in heaven. A burger meal deal including a pint of cask ale is something a burger bar can’t offer.
This Kitchen Porter column appears in the May 2013 issue of Fuller's Tenants Extra.

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