In celebration of National Burger Day, we spoke to Jon Clemence who founded Wannaburger in Edinburgh's lively west end ten years ago. The business has been at the forefront of the burgeoning popularity of the burger trend in Scotland, continuing to grow since its inception to now employ around 18 members of staff.
We asked Jon about why he chose to start a burger restaurant and what advice he'd give on what to look for in a top quality burger. He also told us just how the Festival affects sales and most interestingly, how he feels new services like Deliveroo are helping to expand and enhance the restaurant experience.
So Jon, why did you choose burgers?
I first got into burgers around 2003 when I began working at the Cambridge bar just off Charlotte's Square. I think what got me into it was the simplicity of the product, but also I noticed the growing trend towards people wanting simple things done well and that good food didn't have to be fancy. So, it was two fold I guess.
I had quite a small footprint to work with kitchen-wise and I wanted something that allowed me to put out a quality product - and the answer was burgers.
I wanted to make them as well as I could, especially with the quality of the ingredients and how we put it out to the customer.
Burgers have been part of my life ever since. Originally the burgers I did were gourmet burgers, but now I have moved into a fast food offering to take the hamburger back to its Street food roots. So, we wanted to do gourmet quality burgers but at the speed of service and a price point you'd expect from a fast food company.
What should a customer look out for if they are looking for a really good burger?
I think the two most important things in a burger are the quality of the meat and the quality of the bun. For the meat, it's got to be Scotch beef to ensure a quality standard. This doesn't just mean it comes from Scotland; it also ensures it's passed several standards in its production.
The bun needs to be soft. It doesn't have to be massively flavoursome as it's what holds the whole production together, but it has to be robust to hold the meat and juices and whatever else is in the burger together.
There are some times when you go and have a burger and the bun really destroys the experience; it may be too big or too crusty. For me - if I'm eating a burger - I want to be able to pick it up and eat it with my hands.
You also want the other ingredients to be fresh.
• Vote on your favourite burger place in Glasgow's St Vincent St and you'll be entered in to our competition for your chance to win a meal and free delivery (up to the value of £50) from Deliveroo
How have you seen your competition grow?
There's lots of places opening up and burgers cover a whole range of price points and styles. You can get your gourmet burger in a restaurant for £15 or you can go to places like McDonald's and Burger King. Then you have your middle ground with craft burgers - people trying to create the best burgers they can but creating a similar price point as casual dining.
There was obviously a gap in the casual dining market for a quality burger offering and I think that Gourmet Burger Kitchen were the first brand to get into the market and bring the concept to the UK.
There's also lots of independents trying to create their own take on it now, so it's getting increasingly experimental and interesting as people do different takes on it.
We are trying to do something different by offering a fast food experience. We want to provide great burgers at a great price in a good time.
How does the Festival affect your business?
I used to have a restaurant on the High Street and that really was full on for the Festival. You'd be doing as much turnover in a week in August as you do in a month in January. Here in the west end, it's a little different. We do get a good turn from the Festival; we'll probably see sales grow by 25 per cent. Then you have the Book Festival bringing people to Charlotte Square, so that is great too.
Though you are glad for the spike in business, you are glad to get back to normal by the end of it.
What do you think will be the next big trend?
I would probably have to say quality fast food. I think convenience is definitely something people want; people's lives, especially in the city, are evolving and people want convenience to play a big part. They want to eat out more, and more and more people want food faster and better quality.
You see it now across the whole sector that the quality is definitely elevating as people focus on sourcing better ingredients and better methods, so I think quality and speed, or more importantly a combination of the two, will be important going forward.
How have services like Deliveroo improved the market?
For us, and I guess the market as a whole, Deliveroo have been very important. Obviously the convenience aspect is there, and people are getting better at home delivery, so with services like Deliveroo, you can now get access to higher quality food that you wouldn't have before. Again, they are looking at this idea of combining quality of speed and really taking it to the next level.
Logistically for some businesses it can be hard to deliver and we get nervous about the idea, but thankfully Deliveroo take away that hassle. They are an incredibly professional company and though they are still growing (like us) they have really helped improve our offering.
I think around 8 per cent of our sales now come through Deliveroo, which is great for us. So, it's important for us to have their help and control over the delivery orders. With Deliveroo, they even have a button which means we can, if need be, turn off home deliveries for a while. This means it doesn't affect our in-house offering by preventing large orders coming in on a really busy night and helps us prevent any bottle necks where you might see a drop in quality or speed as we struggle to cope with the extra volume in orders.
It's been especially great for us to get exposure to people who may not know about us but find us through Deliveroo.
I'd say the biggest challenge for us with home delivery has been the fries, getting them to people in the best quality can be hard but these are things we are looking to improve, to sustain the quality from kitchen to the customer's front door.