Craft Burger Craze Going Too Far

Updated: July 17, 2017

So remember when going out and getting a burger was the inexpensive way to go?  And no, I’m not talking about the fast food option either but we will touch on that mess also.  I’m talking about your single burger with toppings and a side of fries.  That’s it… The Diner classic has now gone wild  and turned into restaurant chains serving nothing but gourmet burgers.  I love a Good Burger as much as the next guy but this trend has nearly priced it’s self out of this atmosphere.

First off, please note that I am not taking shots at these restaurants.  Take a look at the image above, those look amazing.  They should for the price.  I am just making the point that eating a Burger, Fries, and a basic drink should never cost $20 per person.

Over the last 15 years we have seen the birth of chains like Red Robin which is a National Chain that specializes in specialty burgers of all shapes and sizes.  Average cost on their specialty burgers run around $12, don’t forget those bottomless fries.   They do have a tavern burger that is more closely comparable to a Fast Food Burger for $7.  As for the fries… They are good and their special seasoning is better than a run of the mill season salt, but not $4 or $5 good.

Locally in the Pittsburgh Market we have seen Restaurants like BRGR open up and push their burgers that also range from $9-$14.   The $9 burger is the Cease and Desist burger that has an option to add another patty and cheese for an additional $7.  What do you get for $9 you ask?  A burger, Caramelized onions, Cheese, and Thousand Island Dressing.  That’s right folks, and Upscale Big Mac.  Actually though, $9 is not that horrible when you consider that the actual McDonalds Big Mac is priced at about $5.00 for their unfulfilling , meat starved, bread laden sandwhich.

Then there is the Celebrity Chain,  Wahlburgers.  When Glancing at the Menu there, it seems like quite a steal.  Wahlburgers menu in general seems like a cross between a deli and diner with pricing that is more closely comparable to a diner. The menu consists of Burgers, salads, Sandwiches and other fresh options.  Everything seems very close to $10 or less.   They offer mixed drinks, beer and alcohol and feature a kids menu and gluten free options which is nice.   They have several interesting Burger options starting at $7.95.   Kudo’s to the ownership for not trying to gauge the public anymore than is necessary.

How about another biggie, Five Guys Burger and Fries.   They offer up what I used to think were pricey Burgers but are now very AFFORDABLE Options in comparison. You can get a Cheeseburger, all the way for $8… what a deal.  Add a regular fry for an additional $4 and figure in a drink and this lunch just went right off the rails again.  We are again talking about $15 for lunch or dinner for a burger.  Okay… I think you’re getting my point.

There are many other local and National chains doing more of the same and figuring out that not just locally, but Nationally we love Burgers and don’t mind spending $20 to get one.

I have to ask though, why don’t we mind?  We should!  For a family of four that does not have small children to go to a less expensive place like Five Guys, your still looking at $50-$60 for lunch or dinner.   Times have changed and I know for some that $60 is not a tremendous amount of money.  But still for a good portion of the population that is just way too much to spend for a Burger driven Lunch or Dinner for 4 people.

Recently, I went to a local diner in the south hills of Pittsburgh.  This was nothing more than what most would call a greasy spoon or an old fashioned diner.  Nothing fancy, and everything straight forward.   I met a colleague for lunch to catch up and we each had a burger, fries, and a drink.   I spent $16.50 and walked away full… most importantly, extremely satisfied. By the way, that was for both of us.  Yes, it was cash only, but it was well worth it.  Oh, and the name of that place was Gab & Eat in Carnegie.

I think we will soon see a return to these style of places.  Maybe even a new trend.  Locally we are seeing more and more of these pop up which is important.  Chains are wonderful, but the “Local Diner” has an ability offer fresh items and be very cost effective.  They also have the ability to try new things often and make changes to their menu’s just as often.   I say bravo to those of you that are Diner owners and those of you that work in these establishments.

See… I love good food, but I love a good deal nearly as much!


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