Burger Wars: Exploring the Profitability and Survival of Restaurant Chains

2023-11-03 10:30:00

Published on Wednesday October 18, 2023 at 5:51 p.m.

Burger restaurant chains are multiplying everywhere and it’s not by chance. The burger for a restaurateur is very profitable. It is even more so when low-end food is served.

With frozen steaks costing 50 cents each or a block of industrial cheese that contains barely 60% cheddar, the cost of making a low-end burger is rikiki. Barely €1.50 while the restaurateur sometimes sells it for more than €12. The blatant delict of Coûte Que Coûte yesterday on TV is clear: the burger is the cash machine of unscrupulous restaurateurs.

In Belgium, the Rolls of well-made burgers is called Huggy’s, a 100% Walloon chain. Thomas, the boss, arranges to meet us in Awans. He does have an opinion on some of his competitors but as a gentleman he prefers to abstain. Huggy’s was born in 2012, well before the burger restaurant craze. “With one of my friends from HEC Liège, we discovered the culture of quality burgers in the United States. When we returned to Belgium, we both launched the concept.”

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Huggy’s will soon open its 13th restaurant, not bad for small Belgians in a crisis context. “The cost of personnel represents 35% and raw materials approximately 33%. With the war in Ukraine we were massacred with the rise in the price of meat and cooking oils (+130%). We made tables with the staff so that they could explain the increases to the customer. It’s true that in terms of price justification it’s not the easiest time, we need to raise awareness.”

Each channel has its own concept. In Liège Spratchie’s specializes in burgers crushed during cooking. Maxime, the boss, opens our eyes to a new phenomenon that is changing prices and margins. “We call it dark kitchens. These are kitchens that produce several types of dishes. The group offers a restaurant owner the opportunity to use its kitchen to prepare different offerings. The restaurant makes its facilities profitable and the darkkitchinist reduces its rental costs.” In this context, it is difficult for a restaurateur who cooks only for his customers to be so competitive.

It remains to be seen in the unforgiving world of the burger which will survive. Two years ago, the Black and White Burger channel of influencer Ibra TV made a notable arrival in Belgium. The chain is expanding little by little, carried by the aura of its creator and by a certain sense of buzz such as the possibility of paying in cryptocurrency.

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