Chains roll out summer burger offerings

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A number of chains this summer are using burgers to reinforce their brands, offering new items that range from spicy to sweet and indulgent to healthful.

Freddy’s, a 65-unit chain based in Wichita, Kan., is underscoring the fact that it specializes in hamburgers and hot dogs by combining the two this summer in its Freddy’s Burger Dog. For that item, a beef hot dog is sliced and placed on top of the restaurant’s signature steakburger.

“We first launched the Burger Dog LTO in 2010 and it was immediately a guest favorite,” chief operating officer Scott Redler said in a press release. This year it's available through Aug. 1.

The Burger Dog sells for $4.29 at company-owned restaurants, and franchisees set their own prices.

And with burger so much in play these days, longtime casual-dining burger specialist, Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, is trying to break new ground as the first chain to add super-hot ghost peppers to its nationwide menu with two spicy burger options.

The Fiery Ghost is made with a ghost pepper sauce, pepper Jack cheese and fried jalapeños. The Cry Baby is made with crispy onion straws tossed in a Sriracha dry seasoning, along with onions sautéed in Cholula Hot sauce, then topped with pepper Jack cheese and ghost pepper ketchup. Both hamburgers are $6.99 and served with the 445-unit chain's bottomless steak fries.

Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurants, a 32-unit chain based in Chattanooga, Tenn., is also offering a spicier rendition of a burger this summer as part of its Caribbean-inspired summer menu. The new Jamaican Kobe Burger is made with American Kobe beef that's seasoned with jerk spices and topped with tropical fruit salsa and lemon aioli. The new burger is served with the chain’s signature garlic fries for $13.95 and is available through Aug. 5.

As a reminder that it serves more than ice cream, soft-serve specialist Dairy Queen is celebrating July, National Ice Cream Month, by offering the Sweet Apple BBQ Grillburger. The 4,488-unit chain's new burger includes bacon, onion slices, lettuce, a thick tomato slice and pepper Jack cheese. It’s topped with a sweet barbecue sauce that contains chunks of apple, and it’s served on a home-style bakery bun. Prices vary depending on location, but at a Dairy Queen in the chain’s hometown of Edina, Minn., the burger costs $4.19.

In the better-for-you burger category, Fresh to Order, which operates five restaurants in Atlanta and one in Chattanooga, Tenn., has introduced a new line of premium burgers. The brand bills itself as “fast fine,” a step up from fast casual, and argues in its promotional materials that wholesome, delicious food doesn’t need to be accompanied by high prices or long waits.

Fresh to Order's new black bean burger, which has fewer than 500 calories, is made with black beans, rice, avocado, house-pickled jalapeños, lettuce, tomatoes and corn relish and is served on wheat flatbread with horseradish honey and mustard sauce. Its tuna burger, studded with ginger and scallion, is served on whole wheat flatbread with horseradish aioli, Asian slaw and baby field greens.

The chain also is currently testing a bison burger served with dried cherries, baby field greens, horseradish aioli and caramelized onions. Both it and the tuna burger have fewer than 600 calories. The black bean burger is $9.49, and the tuna and bison burgers are $9.79.

Contact Bret Thorn at bret.thorn@penton.com.
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