America’s obsession with the “gourmet” burger has finally reached Australia’s soil and is leaving cafes and restaurants searching for their own best seller.
Gone are the days where you would head down to the local milk bar to order your favourite, greasy hamburger. Now, burger-inspired cafes and restaurants can be found on nearly every corner in large cities, as America’s gourmet burger craze officially hits Down Under.
After becoming a booming industry in Australia five years ago, the burger business has grown yearly revenue to $4.2 billion – as of March 2016 – with growth expected to continue over the next few years, according to IBISWorld Research. Though, the question is, ‘why have burgers suddenly become the “in-thing” for consumers and hospitality workers?’
These days, consumers have the option to order a plain cheeseburger or an overloaded patty, sauce, cheese and salad burger when dining out. Bar Luca Sydney’s owner, Sarah Robbins has revealed that when it comes to deciding what burgers to include on her menu, less can be more. “You don’t want to go too crazy; you have to stick to the classics and the basics,” she explained. “Less is always more…you have to have quality meat, a really good bun and cheese. You also need a good meat to sauce ratio; so many things can make a good burger.”
Owner of Mister Gee’s Burger Truck, Gee Ozgen explained he credits his motto of simplicity for his great tasting burgers. “We at Mister Gee Burger Truck put a few things together that complement each other,” he said. “We are the guys doing the simple burgers. We put a good beef patty on a good bun with a couple of things that will complement that piece of beef and cheese.” He added: “We were one of the first places in Sydney to do a truffle burger; and that is very simple with caramelised onion, beef, cheese and truffle mayo sauce with a bit of rocket.”
While burgers are all about the thick, juicy meat patties, the iconic layer of sauce and the little use of salads, their famous buns also define them. Whether it’s a milk bun, plain white bun, Brioche or the new health-conscious lettuce wrap, the roll is what brings all of the ingredients together as one. Bar Luca’s, Sarah Robbins explained a “really good bun” can influence the overall burger.
“[Here] we use a milk bun, which I think is great because nothing falls apart [while you are] half way through eating the burger,’ she explained. “The milk bun also doesn’t over power the recipe’s ingredients, where Brioche are a bit done and dusted now because they are too sweet.”
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Gee from Mister Gee’s Burger Truck said “a bun says a lot about a burger because the bun is the foundation that holds everything together. You need a sturdy bun that will soak up the juices [from the meat patty and cheese], while also holding it all in one piece”.
The concept of ordering your meal and then simply eating it has changed dramatically, thanks to social media. Now, you order, receive your meal, capture it on your phone’s camera, share it on social media and then dig in. After tucking down on the meal, it is most likely you’ll leave your feedback on the café or restaurant’s social media pages for all to see. While it sounds confronting, those competing in the burger market insist it has actually helped boost their business, and given them the exposure they had been searching for over the years. Sarah from Bar Luca Sydney explained: “Social media has had a lot to do with the growing trend of burgers. All of the Facebook groups [dedicated to burger coverage] have been great for business because it’s another avenue of exposure. They have definitely helped build our businesses over time.”
Burger’s of Melbourne blogger, Brennan Lukav went on to reveal that it was only a matter of time before the burger trend took over social media accounts around Australia. “We are following the trend of America. They have gone burger crazy…and social media has influenced the trend because burgers photo the best and look the most appealing compared to other foods.” He added that the influence of social media and images shared across the sites has the power to control what individuals want to consume and where. “When people see a burger on social media, they instantly feel like they want to eat one,” Brennan said.
Along with social media pages dedicated to covering “Australia’s best burgers”, such as the Fatties Burger Appreciation Society, events purely focusing on the fast food have also been arranged. In 2016, the Burgerpalooza festival took over Sydney as it joined forces with numerous burger-inspired restaurants. At the weekend-long event, each venue offered exclusive burgers at a discounted price, while a local DJ entertained attendees.
While the burger industry continues to kick off and grow intensively each year, those within the circle have insisted the competition between the outlets has remained pleasant. Bar Luca’s owner Sarah explained that despite each venue competing against one another, they all remain on good terms, as well as close friends. “There is competitiveness…and there are a couple of people who aren’t the nicest, but most of us get along really well,” she said. “We all work together and sometimes even do some great collaborations. We always help each other out if one of us are out of stock.”