Beef burgers and steaks are top of mind for consumers. In fact, 50% of consumers eat a beef burger weekly and 48% of consumers eat steak on weekly basis. The National Cattlemen's Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, recently conducted research on consumer preferences for beef burgers and steaks when dining out. The research determined how consumers define quality, what factors are most important to them, and what cuts, cook, toppings, and more consumers prefer most.
First, the research looked at the quality indicators for beef burgers and how 700 consumers go about customizing and selecting their burgers when dining out. Not surprisingly, the most important aspect of a burger is its taste. In addition, a burger that is juicy and fresh indicates quality, and the toppings, cook/doneness, weight/size, and sauce(s) are also important.
The cook is a particularly critical aspect to get right and there's not one unanimous doneness level consumers prefer. Menu descriptors that shared the overall size of the burger and how or what it is made with were more enticing overall. Some examples included "flame-grilled," "smoked", "Angus beef," and "sirloin." When asked open-endedly to describe an ideal burger, unique toppings and the size of the burger were mentioned often, alongside cook, juiciness, and freshness. Consumers also used adjectives like "smothered," "loaded," "simple," and "fixings" to describe their burger preferences. Using more descriptors that inform consumers about the burger's size, freshness and juiciness will help highlight the burger's quality. And, allowing consumers to customize the cook and toppings will help give them their ideal burger.
Consumers are most familiar with popular steak cuts, namely the Top Sirloin, Ribeye, Filet Mignon, T-Bone Porterhouse and Strip Steak. Regardless of cut, when asked to rank different factors associated with a steak quality, consumers ranked taste, tenderness, juiciness, and freshness as most important. Other aspects, like the cook, type of cut, and USDA grade are also important. However, there is no unanimous decision on what level of doneness is best, with 50% preferring a medium or medium-rare steak and the other 50% preferring a more advanced level of doneness (medium well, well done, etc.).
64% of consumers prefer to have some sort of potato side with their steak, with the most popular being a baked potato or mashed potatoes. Ultimately, restaurants hoping to appeal more to consumers should focus on taste, preparation method, and ensuring the desired cook is perfect. Offering a variety of steak cuts when possible, but especially Filet and/or Ribeye, will appeal to most. Additionally, great customer service and delicious potato sides are sure to provide consumers with a more than satisfactory steak dining experience.