(One of the) Best Burgers Ever

Believe it or not, but I find Applebees burgers to be the best burgers I have ever tasted! This may be heresy coming from a self confessed foodie, but hear me out. Usually, I find burgers from chains fairly throw away affairs, you get it, eat it, it’s hot, it probably has some nice toppings, and you’re done. However, I don’t know whether it is the new line of “Real Burgers” they started doing months ago or if they just started making them better, but their recent burgers, particularly the A1 Steakhouse burger is just fantastic.

It comes on a lightly toasted bun, on which they put a drop of tangy A1 sauce and a creamy mayonnaise type dressing and plenty of fried onion straws. Now, if they’ve done it properly the burger should have some pink to it but still be warm throughout and that is when you get a good juiciness to the burger. They’ve been a little bit inconsistent recently and not asked how I want the burger and sometimes I get it well done and other times I get it nice and pink-ish. Since they can’t decide on a default, just tell them you want it pink and warm throughout (medium as opposed to medium well).

When this thing arrives, you start by biting into the soft bun and then you plough through the onion straws which have a mildly crunchy fried texture and a slight sweetness from the onions. You then hit the soft mild (swiss?) cheese and the burger which is a patty of tender juicy beefiness with just the right crumbly texture to the burger and a juiciness that drips. In there somewhere is the tangyness of A1 which punctuates the other flavors now and again. These things are awesome and they are on the 2 for $20 menu (2 meals plus an appetizer for $20). I think they are grinding their meat fresh, and gently forming the patty so the meat doesn’t form into a tight beef puck which just gets tough.

Next time I plan on broadening my horizons and trying one of their other burgers (cowboy or cheese burger) to see if it is as good. The A1 burger doesn’t have bacon on it which normally should be an instant penalization, but regardless this burger is still so tasty. I used to have the cowboy burger (well done) but the toppings (onion rings, bacon and BBQ sauce) were tastier than the burger. I plan on trying it with the new improved burgers since perfect burger plus fantastic toppings could lead to an epic event!

(Update – 8th Feb 2010 – After taking my brother and Sister in law there, we found that a) They are thoroughly inconsistent, with the better burgers being the exception not the rule. b) Their service was crappy as they delivered appetizers, salad and the burgers in the space of 2 minutes after letting us wait for 10 minutes (Their problem, we planned on having a long meal and working our way through the cocktail menu). Also, they just got usurped by Michael Symon).

Christmas Hiatus Over

Well, 2009 is done with and we are plunging headlong into 2010. Being European, I like to take a good week off around Christmas and New Year and with relatives here for Christmas I haven’t spent much time on work or blogging. So for those that have sent emails, apologies for the delay and I’ll get back to you this week/weekend. I have a few posts lined up including part 3 of the CDI articles covering Events, I’ll probably do one introducing conversations and then I’ll start writing on creating some real world apps with JSF and CDI. If anyone has anything they’d like to see in these articles, let me know.

Also, I have a couple of food posts almost completed as Christmas was full of good food and recipes that inspired me to blog about it (Must have been watching Julie & Julia in the New Year that did it).

Happy New Year all!

The Economics of Pizza

Like most people I enjoy Pizza, especially when I order in rather than making my own, and like most people I consult the stack of coupons that arrive in the mail daily. Personally, I live in an area where there are no really good pizza places to capture my loyalty, so price becomes the deciding factor.

One trend I have noticed recently is the tendency to offer deals which are either buy one get one free, or offering value meals with a pizza, wings, salad and 2 liter for $20 or so, or offering a pizza with 1 topping for a low price. Here’s the problems with that.

It’s great for people with large families, or when your kids are having a party or you invite friends over to watch a game or something. However, it does leave a certain demographic out of options. My wife is not a big fan of pizza, so usually I’m the only one eating it (she will steal a slice or two later in the evening though). I usually prefer to have some left over (lunch the next day) and I like a number of toppings on my pizza. If pizza shops are offering to feed a family of 4 for 20 bucks, surely I can get a decent sized pizza with multiple toppings for about $10?

See, if I buy a 12 inch with two toppings for $10, and they have a buy one get one free, I end up with 2 crusts, 4 toppings and 2 cheese toppings. How about you just keep the other crust and throw the extra cheese and toppings on the other pizza? I end up with 4 toppings and extra cheese for $10 and you’ve saved the hassle of making, cooking and boxing a pizzas. Incidentally, Gina’s Pizza in Strongsville does exactly this, I can get a large (16 inch) with 3 toppings for $10 with a coupon. They are also very good.

Also, when you offer a cheap and cheerful pizza at a discount at least make it as good as your standard pizzas. Some pizza shops here have pizzas already cooked and waiting for walk-in customers to stop by and pick one up. Trouble is that there is very little cheese and pepperoni on them, and there is about 2 inches between the start of the cheese and the edge of the crust. Ok, it is a cheap pizza, but at the same time, it’s not great advertising for how well you make pizzas. If you are going to run a loss leader, at least make it something that is going to reflect and advertise your business effectively. Businesses often offer inferior products at a discount, but when doing so, they brand them under a different name, not as a ‘lite’ version. With pizza, it’s a little more difficult to do, but the pizza shops do try and brand them as discount pizzas to distinguish. However, that distinction is not always clear.

How can this translate into something more interesting than Pizza? Well, it’s worth remembering this when you are designing marketing and sales strategies. If you are going to offer discounts, make sure it is something that can apply to smaller businesses as well as bigger ones. If you offer 3 for 2 on training courses, that’s not going to do the smaller company, with only 2 developers, much good. You are giving them a free training course that they are going to throw away, or pay to send someone else who perhaps doesn’t need the training, but they may as well use the free space.

If you are going to offer a home or personal version of software (as opposed to professional), make sure it still does everything the user needs to a degree. You don’t need to include every bell and whistle, but make sure it is usable and doesn’t reflect badly on you and therefore dissuade them from upgrading to the professional version. Also make sure the two versions are clearly marked and the user is aware that there is a professional version that comes with additional functions. Otherwise they might just think that this is the product and the one offered by your competitor for a little more cost has more features.