The secret behind sliders: less ingredients, more profit

Articles
July 10, 2009

The secret behind sliders: less ingredients, more profit

Sliders may be unleashing a new side to the personality of burgers, the most frequently ordered restaurant food. It seems that chefs everywhere are molding the minis in new ways to demonstrate that good things come in small packages. Crab cake sliders are hot on college campuses, says Sodexo. Rib-eye sliders are reportedly popular at Ruth’s Chris steakhouses, as are ahi tuna sliders at TGI Friday’s, bagel burgers at Einstein Brothers, and kobe beef and lobster sliders in restaurants around the nation. Even wedding caterers offer them up as less showy, less flaunting, more fundamentally American foods that send an appropriate message in today’s recession. That’s great for consumers who appreciate the variety and basic comfort of sliders. However, so many eateries are pushing sliders for reasons beyond their appeal on a menu and their visual attractiveness on a plate. They provide a much-needed counter to the erosion of restaurant goers in this recession, the price wars felt by many feeders, and the overall rise in ingredients costs. Simply, sliders save restaurants money, perhaps as much as 25-30% on the ingredients cost, in our estimate at SupermarketGuru.com. That’s pretty much the reason chefs have gotten behind these morsels. They’re a positive development in a challenging environment.

Sliders may be unleashing a new side to the personality of burgers, the most frequently ordered restaurant food. It seems that chefs everywhere are molding the minis in new ways to demonstrate that good things come in small packages. 

Crab cake sliders are hot on college campuses, says Sodexo. Rib-eye sliders are reportedly popular at Ruth’s Chris steakhouses, as are ahi tuna sliders at TGI Friday’s, bagel burgers at Einstein Brothers, and kobe beef and lobster sliders in restaurants around the nation. Even wedding caterers offer them up as less showy, less flaunting, more fundamentally American foods that send an appropriate message in today’s recession.

That’s great for consumers who appreciate the variety and basic comfort of sliders.
However, so many eateries are pushing sliders for reasons beyond their appeal on a menu and their visual attractiveness on a plate. They provide a much-needed counter to the erosion of restaurant goers in this recession, the price wars felt by many feeders, and the overall rise in ingredients costs.

Simply, sliders save restaurants money, perhaps as much as 25-30% on the ingredients cost, in our estimate at SupermarketGuru.com. That’s pretty much the reason chefs have gotten behind these morsels. They’re a positive development in a challenging environment.

None of these efforts would matter if consumers didn’t scoop up the shrunken burgers. One view that they do comes from Datassential. Their 2008 report says “mini-burgers are sizzling, with an amazing 143% penetration growth over the past three years. Activity is strong in all segments, with several national chains adding sliders to their menu in 2007 and 2008.” That average included: a 71% increase at quick-serve restaurants, a 483% leap at mid-scale eateries, a 91% gain in casual feeders, and a 144% climb in the fine dining segment, the firm said.

Sliders may be shifting from fad to lasting trend. Here’s a sign of sliders’ ubiquity: An As Seen on TV slider-making device is being sold at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $19.99. Now everyone can experiment at home and satisfy their slider craving without going out to the restaurant. Uh-oh.