Sonic says the special buns have boosted same-store sales and transactions
Looking for ways to make their product stand out in an increasingly crowded segment, some burger brands are turning to a very literal form of branding.
At most burger joints, enhancements to the bun might include an egg wash and a sprinkle of seeds. At chains including Sonic, Umami Burger, and BurgerFi, as well as independent restaurants such as the Napa Valley Burger Company, however, burger buns may sport a logo.
A franchisee of 54 Sonic units in Louisiana, for example, recently launched a football season-related promotion for a spicy new Ragin’ Cajun burger featuring an edible logo for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The promotion has been so popular that officials with Sonic’s corporate office said they are evaluating the operational process to see if the idea could be applied in other markets within the 3,500-unit chain.
Launched in partnership with the university, the Ragin’ Cajun promotion is available at 25 Sonic locations operated by Lafayette, La.-based Kergan Brothers.
Gary Wilkerson, president of the franchise group, said same-store sales in the first three weeks of the promotion rose 13 percent and transactions have increased by 8 percent.
Other than in-store promotional material and social media mentions that have spread like wildfire, the company has not had to invest in advertising, he said. “It has been enormously, off-the-grid popular, far exceeding by about 400 percent what we’d normally see for an LTO,” said Wilkerson.
While the logo tends to generate a first purchase, “because people think it’s cool,” Wilkerson said they come back for the burger because of the taste. The Ragin’ Cajun burger is topped with Tabasco-brand spicy mayo, pepper jack cheese and thin “kickin’ Cajun” fried crispy onions, and served with a packet of Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning as a lagniappe. Both Tabasco and Tony Chachere’s are local brands, so “it’s officially a Cajun burger,” said Wilkerson.
Getting the logo on the bun, which requires a new piece of equipment, is not without challenges, however. “It’s an extra step, and it requires a little TLC,” Wilkerson said.
The Ragin’ Cajun burger is sold at a 50-cent premium, he said, “And the benefit has been huge.”
At Los Angeles-based Umami Burger, burger buns are branded with the letter U as a standard feature. Each bun is hand-stamped with a proprietary plant-based natural product.
With 13 units of the full-service Umami Burger concept open and growing, the company is also soon planning to launch a quick-service variation with a similar menu. The burger buns there will be stamped with the company’s “pouty lips” logo, which also resembles a burger bun, instead of a U, said founder Adam Fleischman.
Across the country, the soon-to-be nine-unit BurgerFi chain, based in North Palm Beach, Fla., uses a hot iron to brand the company’s logo onto the signature potato roll bun.
“It’s a visually appealing way to add our fun personality to an already amazing, all-natural burger,” said Zlata Faerman, a spokeswoman for the fast-casual burger chain.
Burgers at the Napa Valley Burger Company in Sausalito, Calif., also are branded with the “NVP” logo using a hot iron. The restaurant turns too many tables each week to brand every burger bun, however, so just a few branded buns are periodically sent out throughout the day.
The lucky guest to receive a branded bun also wins a prize of some sort, like a free dessert or tee shirt, said Michaela Jump, a spokeswoman for the restaurant.
Contact Lisa Jennings at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow her on Twitter @livetodineout