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Scotland's burger obsession - here to stay or gone tomorrow?

Warren Campbell discusses whether Scotland's current obsession with all things burger is here to stay

Published: July 23, 2015

With American cuisine at the forefront of current foodie trends, it is almost impossible to ignore the current popularity of the burger bar boom which has been taking the nation by storm for quite some time. But will this trend ever end?

Once upon a time, not so long ago, the crowds queued in their masses at the likes of McDonalds and such for that quick fill. This was the norm before the term 'gourmet burger' suddenly erupted bringing the fast-food serving to a whole new creative dynamic.

With consumers now looking elsewhere for better burgers concepts and more authentic servings, the impact this has had on the fast-food industry has been nothing short of negative. But it's not just Scotland... The effects have been felt on an international basis with McDonalds announcing the closure of over 700 franchises worldwide due to vast increases in competition with profits at an all time low in 2014.

But why the current fascination with burgers? Glasgow's St Vincent Street is now famed for its burgers; a concrete boulevard of 'burger bon vivant' one might say - With bags of beef, lashings of barbecue and bustling bars aplenty - more or less every St Vincent Street corner is now home to a burger outlet.

The question now arises - has the burger trend had its day in the sun? Notorious Bar Bloc chef Danny McLaren, aka Mad Chef, believes it has: "This is a matter that is of interest to me - the trend I believe is definitely already on its way out. Glasgow will always have a place in its heart for burgers - burgers and venues with identity." Mad Chef continues, "What has ruined the concept of the 'gourmet burger' is capitalisation.

Bar Bloc chef Danny McLaren, aka Mad Chef in full flow. Picture: Mad Chef

Bar Bloc chef Danny McLaren, aka Mad Chef in full flow. Picture: Mad Chef


"Folk have seen an opportunity and grabbed it as you will see walking through Glasgow city centre and other places... And like most things, once capitalisation happens, it's no longer a cool concept and the trend declines. I give it another two years until it's gone."

So what's next? Giving the fact that there is a general consensus that consumers are wanting more authentic eats and more natural ingredients - Are healthier and more green options going to be the next phenomenon to sweep the nation? Perhaps vegetarian and vegan options?

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Mad Chef believes it could be: "In America, vegetarian establishments and options are standardised, whereas in the UK at the moment, there is still a lack of diversity when it comes to serving vegetarian palettes."

"For anyone who wants to progress in the field of casual dining, nutritious healthy foods, perhaps vegetarian and vegan, is the way to go."

He also adds: "In Bar Bloc, I have noticed a recent surge of our vegetarian options in popular demand... and it isn't just vegetarians ordering them! Having chatted with locals, meat eaters have even commented that they prefer the healthier option."

Speaking of his new project namely 'Street Buddha', Mad Chef revealed that the idea of the scheme is to get healthy street food ideas on people's minds. Describing street food as simply "minimal methods and minimal ingredients", the young chef has been hard at work creating new healthier dishes to bring to the Glasgow crowd which he hopes will be the start of something new.

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It can also be noted that James Lees, renowned food blogger of James vs Burger, has moved away from the burger concept with a distinct focus on healthier alternatives.

As a fan of burgers though, the degree of creativity and innovation displayed over the past few years on the globally acclaimed "fast hit" meal has been nothing short of impressive and no doubt there is further room for more diversity - however - burger fatigue is already beginning to become a factor.

Referring back to 'burgers and venues with identity', there is no question the likes of Bar Bloc and Bread Meats Bread have owned the 'gourmet burger' concept in Scotland for many years and will continue to do so.

There will always be a demand for a good burger, especially in Scotland, but it goes without saying that trends do normally come to a crashing end. Anyone remember pulled pork?

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So burgers aside, what would you like to see at the forefront of casual bar dining menus?

Warren Campbell is a food and drink enthusiast who has his finger on the pulse when it comes to the Scottish licence trade. Having written for various publications and worked behind several bars, Warren’s passion for all things trade related is what drives him. He can be seen enjoying a Balvenie 12 Year Old Doublewood in his favourite haunts around Glasgow or frequenting between Glasgow and Edinburgh’s thriving restaurant scenes.

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