August 1/Chicago/PRNewswire -- The limited-service burger segment is the largest menu segment by revenue in the restaurant industry. It is driven on one hand by McDonald's, which accounts for half of the segment's business, and on the other hand by a growing number of "better burger" concepts, upscaled fast-casual burger players.

Fast-casual burger chains grew sales by 20.8% last year, while all limited-service burger chains grew 3.7%. Technomic sees plenty of room for continued growth, as fast-casual sales are currently only 3.2% of LSR burger-segment sales.

"Better-burger concepts have a lot going for them. First, they have the benefit of a basic and beloved menu focus. Raising the quality of the protein, bun, toppings and sides has been a winning formula. And a number of celebrity chefs have opened concepts that focus on burgers made with premium ingredients, helping to raise their profile," says executive vice president Darren Tristano. "Plus, the segment includes some of the rising stars of the industry overall." For example, Smashburger grew sales by more than 71% in 2011, and Five Guys Burgers and Fries increased sales by 24%.

In order to help restaurant operators and suppliers understand the opportunities with regard to "Better-Burger," Technomic has developed the "Market Intelligence Report: Better Burgers." Noteworthy findings include:

  • Many full-service chains have gotten in on the better-burger action by adding gourmet burgers to their menus and have opened burger-focused spin off concepts offering build-your-own options.
  • Quick-service burger chains have raised the quality of their burger offerings as well.
  • Consumers place a premium on quality of their burger: 74% rank quality/taste of the meat or protein as the most important part of the burger.
  • Put some cheese on it. Cheeseburgers are the top hamburger type on LSR burger-chain menus.
  • Customization is key. Several fast-casual brands offer a build-your-own-burger option, where customers can choose from a variety of proteins, breads, cheeses, toppings and sauces.