Burger Wisconsin are bringing a plant-based burger to the high street.

Burger Wisconsin are bringing a plant-based burger to the high street.

Burger Wisconsin franchisees embrace changing tastes by adding meatless burgers

Earlier this year, Air New Zealand announced it would be offering meat-free burgers in its Business Premier Class flights from Los Angeles to Auckland. While some outrage was aimed at the idea of our national carrier ‘not supporting’ our beef farmers, people were interested in the product itself. What was it? Was it any good? And where could they try it? Soon they’ll be able to find out for themselves without paying business class prices – at Burger Wisconsin

New Zealand’s original gourmet burger chain might seem an unlikely brand to be bringing a plant-based burger to the high street, but in fact it’s in keeping with both Burger Wisconsin’s roots and its recent re-boot under the new ownership of Mariposa Restaurant Holdings (MRH), who also developed Mexicali Fresh.

Founded in 1989, Burger Wisconsin introduced exciting and innovative combinations such as Avocado & Bacon and Camembert & Cranberry to the local market. ‘That was quite revolutionary back then,’ grins Conor Kerlin, who manages brand development and overall customer experience for MRH, ‘And during the two decades before we acquired it, it stayed true to its principles with franchisees working serving tasty, healthy burgers featuring fresh, local produce. It became a strong, stable, iconic part of Kiwi culture as a result.

‘But times change. When we took over in 2015 we recognised that the franchise had a great brand with a loyal fan base but it needed re-energising. Part of that was encouraging the refurbishment of the 22 franchised stores, but it also required us to connect with a new generation and recognise that times have changed.’

healthy food in healthy bodies

‘At both Burger Wisconsin and Mexicali Fresh, our customers trust us to put healthy food into their bodies – and those of their kids,’ says Conor. ‘We therefore aim to offer ingredients that are, as far as possible, fresh, free-range, locally-produced and have a low impact upon our environment. To be socially responsible as a brand, we have never settled for sourcing cheap ingredients that travel huge distances to get here, and we never will.

‘At the same time, we sell a lot of burgers and we have to recognise that cows are a significant contributor to greenhouse gases – in fact, New Zealand is seventh highest for emissions on a list of 41 of the world’s industrialised countries. Our planet is still hungry for creative, sustainable ways to feed our rapidly growing human family, so what can we as an ethical company do about it? We still need to sell burgers, but we can offer alternatives. Enter this premium plant protein burger from Hungry Planet that has no meat involved in its manufacture at all. It’s taken more than ten years of research and development, but we now have a genuine meat-free patty that tastes like the original – it’s a game changer that makes a superb addition to our legendary burger range.

‘Hungry Planet burgers are a perfect substitute for people who care about the environment, whether they are vegans, vegetarians or meat-eaters,’ says Conor. ‘Importantly, they also taste fantastic, and we know they will be popular both with our fans and our franchisees. Internationally, people are reducing the amount of meat that they consume so this is a major new development for our restaurants both in terms of leading the market and responding to future trends to ensure our own continuing growth – and that of our franchisees.’

trust in change

Burger Wisconsin’s franchisees have learned to trust in the leadership of the team at MRH. Rather than imposing all sorts of sudden changes, the company took its time, learning what worked and what needed to change, what customers loved and what could be improved. Only after that did they embark on a carefully-planned programme of upgrades. ‘Our job was to give the stores a face and purpose that reassured our customers of all the previous product consistency and service, whilst allowing the individuality of the owners and their stores to shine through. Our seating areas became more comfortable and attractive, so customers and their families could relax and enjoy our premium food.

‘Along with new products, new promotions and new systems, we’ve managed to deliver our franchisees the tools to increase sales and an increase in profitability, and that’s demonstrated by the fact that many of our franchisees are seeking to expand by opening additional stores. Like us, they care deeply about Burger Wisconsin’s reputation and are as excited as we are about the introduction of our new meatless patties.’

1 April 2019
Franchise New Zealand Magazine