Retail

Customers Fed Up With High Burger Bills

So many burgers, s0 little money. The average person has between $4 and $6 to spend on lunch daily, and that’s just not enough to treat themselves to a nice burger, even if they skip the drink and fries. To buy a better burger, customers have to shell out $13 on average.

The $13 price tag applies to fast-casual restaurants like Shake Shack, Smashburger, and even Five Guys Burgers and Fries, where burgers come on artisanal buns and customers can personalize their burger with add-ons like fried egg, guacamole, roasted garlic aioli, and truffled arugula … for an up-charge.

For $4 to $6 a day, customers’ options are limited to traditional fast-food chains like McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King, where they can get a full combo within their budget.

Lunch traffic to fast-food and fast-casual burger joints fell 5 percent last year, according to market research firm NPD Group Inc. That’s a pretty direct inverse relationship to the average lunch burger check, which has risen 22 percent since 2008 and 4 percent in the last year.

Increasingly unable to pay the better-burger premium, and unwilling to settle for frozen beef patties at McDonald’s, many diners have also switched to cooking their own burgers at home whenever possible.

Only one in five Millennials has ever tried a Big Mac.

In response, McDonald’s is shifting its focus back to the basics. Instead of catering to the healthy crowd with salads and wraps, it’s now committed to improving its burger, and that starts with a fresh, never-frozen patty. Sound familiar? That’s because Wendy’s, too, prides itself on the never-frozen hamburger.

It remains to be seen whether the tactic will win customers over. After all, for a very small investment, diners can buy a package of ground beef and an onion at the grocery store and make a perfectly good burger (or several) from those simple ingredients.

That’s how Brian Cockerline, a 20-year-old Rutgers University student, does dinner these days. Cockerline got fed up with the high price tag at his former favorite, Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

“A hamburger, to me, is not a luxury,” he said.

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