Ember Inns offers a better class of burger

Related tags Ember inns Hamburger

As has been pointed outt before, there are plenty of 'one-trick pony' food operations out there, from steak houses to sandwich bars. Doing just one...

As has been pointed outt before, there are plenty of 'one-trick pony' food operations out there, from steak houses to sandwich bars. Doing just one thing, however well, can be a high-risk strategy. There's always the danger that someone else can do it better, or cheaper - or both.

Pubs are particularly well placed to compete, because the business can be different things at different times. Simply changing a few table menus and A-boards can transform an afternoon coffee offer into a fixed-price curry-and-a-pint promotion.

With several upmarket burger chains having arrived on the market over the past two years, the public's appetite for a decent burger is clearly strong. The end of last year saw Mitchells & Butlers launch a gourmet burger range into its Ember Inns chain.

With prices starting at £5.95, the range has strong appeal and offers better value than the burger specialist. Equally, there has been no compromise on quality, with the burgers made using Mey Selections beef from family-owned farms and crofts in the North Highlands of Scotland.

Oliver Devine, senior marketing manager at Ember Inns, says: "We identified gourmet burgers, produced from the best cuts of British beef and freshly cooked on a chargrill, as an ideal addition to our pub food offer.

"We've always had a range of burgers on our menus but the gourmet range has enabled us to focus on and promote them in a new way and customers have been extremely receptive to the development of the offer - and in a casual dining environment, burgers are great finger food."

The pub brand's research showed that consumers are increasingly looking for well-priced products that also meet expectations of quality and provenance.

Mey Selections was selected as it works to high standards of animal welfare and traceability, with its Scottish heritage also providing an interesting product story for customers.

The range was initially promoted through a standalone burger menu, and through a two-for-one offer run in association with a national newspaper. Pubs also featured a large external advertising banner advertising the gourmet burger range.

The burgers have now been incorporated into the standard Ember Inns food menu.

"We've had an excellent response," says Devine. "Gourmet burgers currently account for approximately one in five of all meals sold at Ember Inns and are continuing to grow in popularity week on week."

The ability to meet high demand was another reason for the choice of Mey Selections as a supplier. That capability is coming in useful now, with demand running at around 80,000 burgers a month and still rising.

"Our guest feedback has been very positive too, and has certainly re-affirmed our decision to put gourmet burgers at the top of our food agenda."

While the quality, flavour and presentation have all been well received, the price point has also been key. Menu development at Ember Inns is also being tweaked in light of the popularity of the burgers, says Devine.

"We're increasing the emphasis on chargrilling our food, for both meat and fish," he says.

"The burger range has demonstrated the success of that style of cooking, bringing out the flavours to create one of the most popular dishes in Ember's history."

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