Half a year ago, I doted on the remarkable upswing in creative interpretations of the Western staple cuisine – the burger. Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed this dish go from an ordinary menu item at any old greasy spoon or fast food location to a carte blanche for artisanal combinations of premium toppings and high quality patty ingredients.
Sure, there are always the McDonalds of the world to fill out the bottom end, but now the glass ceiling has been shattered and the sky literally is the limit on where burgers can go. Aside of the healthier vegan counterpart, people are well aware of the artery-clogging implications of eating a slab of fried meat. Labeled as a comfort food, people aren’t yearning for burgers seven days a week. But when they crave an indulgence, they go all out.
Upscale burger joints are currently ‘trending’ and signs of slowdown aren’t readily apparent. Take the two Torontonian rivals closest to where I live – The Burger’s Priest and Holy Chuck. The former offers up a sloppy double bacon cheeseburger slapped between two grilled cheese sandwiches while the latter matches that with two beef patties in between BLTs – all with high quality ingredients I might add. And this barely scratches the surface; check their menus if you have a bib handy to wipe away the drool.
As it concerns your hotel, we are not so much discussing whether your restaurant should make an ultra-decadent burger as we are the concept of such an item appearing on your menu. It’s something to get people talking and raise your brand awareness through word of mouth. It’s a dish to draw in the locals and build your reputation with the community. It’s about creating a unique experience so guests will want to return.
After all, hoteliers are not in the rooms selling business. We are in the business of facilitating a memorable experience for our clients to enrich through lives. If you wholeheartedly understand this, then your job is already half done.
So, what’s the buzz about sliders? For those unfamiliar, a slider is a mini-burger, digestible in anywhere from one to four bites. They’ve been around for a while now and are probably best known through White Castle, a North American fast food chain specializing in these yummy little nibblers.
Recently, however, sliders have been embraced a taster’s menu item – a ‘flight of burgers’ if you will. For the price of one full-sized burger, you can get three or four sliders, each of a different meat type or topping combination. My home town of Toronto has now fully squeezed this idea to its marketable limits with the launch of new high-end slider-exclusive restaurants – the appropriately named Slider Revolution and Two Bite Saloon. Look both up for inspiration and to see how far the concept of sliders has already been stretched.
These types of dedicated restaurant launches appear to be part of the larger trend of ‘nichifying’ which is not something exclusive to the food industry. Indeed our very own hotel business is going through a similar transition: budget has gone more budget, ‘no frills chic’ has emerged as a popular category, major chains are embracing their worldwide networking power, and luxury has trifurcated into ‘classical luxury’, ‘ultra modern luxury’ and ‘boutique luxury’.
At the core of this ‘nichification’ is the simple notion that generic is boring. Not to say that people aren’t in need of generic products, but that brands help form a part of a person’s identify and boring isn’t a highly sought quality. So, while you might get away with decent revenues off of a neutered menu offering the run-of-the-mill gamut of pizzas, pasta, burgers, salads and mains, you won’t be giving your patrons much to talk about after the fact.
In other words, you won’t be triggered a profound emotional response for your guests to better remember you for when they are next in town or looking for a bite. Sliders are but one tool in your arsenal to help ‘spice things up’ and give your hungry patrons an unexpected treat.
The broad question to ask your team is: what is your restaurant’s niche? The more you specialize, the more you can perfect those items offered on the menu and the more extravagant you can get. Next, think of one or two ways where you can provide a cuisine option that will fulfill the outright indulgence quota. It doesn’t necessarily have to be sliders or anything in the sandwich family, but hopefully these mini-burgers help get the ball rolling.
(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky in eHotelier on February 20, 2013)