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Burgers sitting pretty in the popularity stakes

When popping into The Plimsoll pub close to where I live in North London the most common sight – apart from the pints of beer of course – are its renowned Dexter Cheeseburger that draws people in from around the capital. It became a cult classic when originally cooked up by chefs Ed McIllroy and Jamie Allan in a pop-up kitchen at the nearby Compton Arms.


When they decided to open their own place, The Plimsoll, they held a fundraising party where the main prize was a Dexter Cheeseburger Black Card that gave the lucky winner unlimited cheeseburgers.


It’s maybe no surprise that the beefy creation accounts for 35% of food orders at the pub, which is on the menu for a very modest £11. Throw in some fries and you are still only around the £15 mark. When I quizzed Ed on this bargain offering he says the burger alone should really be priced at more like £18 but is reluctant to notch it up because it is such a strong driver of customers to the pub who then partake in the odd pint or two.


Pricing Issues


The issue of burger prices has been somewhat of a thorny issue of late. Chef Gary Usher came in for a serious social media backlash when he mentioned that his forthcoming gastropub would be charging £19.50 for a burger and fries. Some observers were apoplectic that he had almost broached the £20 level. He argued it was a super-premium dry-aged beef burger with Comté cheese served with skinny fries and when you also take into account all the other costs of running the place then it is a veritable bargain. 


Such debates are maybe not too surprising because a burger and chips is among the most popular dishes in the UK (and quite possibly the world). For instance, as many as 23% of pub visits involve burgers, according to Lumina Intelligence, which also found that burgers were the most popular new addition to pub menus in Q4 of 2022, accounting for 57% of new dishes. Meanwhile chips were the most popular side dish. The upshot of this is that many pubs that didn’t have burgers and chips on the menu do now. Burgers are also one of the most popular cuisines ordered via the various delivery platforms.


The arguments over price are undoubtedly fuelled by the fact burgers seem to have become something of an egalitarian dish. They have to some extent replaced the quintessentially British dish of fish and chips, which has long since moved on from being the dish-of-the-people as fish prices have risen considerably over the years. 


The general consensus of burgers being affordable for everybody is also underpinned by the incredibly low price points at the major QSR brands McDonald’s and Burger King. They have recently been joined by Wendy’s, which has returned to the UK, and is on the expansion trail. More competition is on the way with the announcement that US chain Carl’s Jr could open up to 300 sites across the UK over the next 10-15 years. Further fuelling our value perception of the burger is JD Wetherspoon. Even with its recent price increases you can still get its Ultimate burger for less than £11 and this includes a beer.




Beefing up the field are a plethora of more premium players including the likes of Five Guys, Honest Burger, Patty & Bun, Bleecker, and Gourmet Burger Kitchen but even with their higher prices they still represent a good value (and very filling) meal when compared with the myriad other cuisines in the marketplace. 


Although the food service industry is under massive inflationary pressure the incredible competition among the burger operators, their impressive operational efficiencies, and the insatiable appetite of the British diner for a beef patty placed between a bread bun look set to ensure this much loved dish will remain a mainstay of the UK food scene for the foreseeable future.

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