Why Restaurants Don't Really Want You To Order The Burger

You should think twice before ordering a burger at a fancy restaurant. They tend to be overpriced for what you get, fussy and topping heavy, and they don't typically show off the chef's forte. Besides that, restaurants don't really want you to order the burger. The reason? The restaurants often lose money on that particular menu item. "You need to make a certain amount of money per seat," Chef Geoff Davis of Oakland's Burdell told The New York Times. "So if you have $40 or $50 entrees and you have a $19 burger, and a third of the people get the burger, you're losing a huge amount of money."


Additionally, with the price of beef continuing to rise — up 32% since 2019 due to supply issues, according to Time — many restaurants are eating the cost rather than passing the entire price increase onto the customer. And it's not just the price of beef that's gone up.

Burgers can be a losing proposition

The restaurant business in general is getting hit with cost increases in food and labor. In 2023, 38% of restaurants didn't make a profit, according to the National Restaurant Association. In a situation like this, restaurateurs would obviously prefer to sell higher priced entrees over burgers, even if they've added other ingredients to up the price. Back when expensive Kobe beef sliders began appearing at high end restaurants, the late great chef and author Anthony Bourdain called this beef trend "a clear and present danger." He believed that the hype and the price didn't match the end result.


Some chefs find that having a burger on the menu may pay off in one key area. "It does help push our cocktail program and our beverage program," Chef Kris Komori of Boise's Kin told The New York Times. Besides helping to sell drinks, there are other reasons why restaurants keep burgers on the menu.

So why do restaurants have burgers on the menu?

Some chefs believe that burgers can be a gateway meal to ease diners into later ordering a dish that better illustrates what the chef is known for, which may be pricier. Chef Johnny Spero of Washington D.C.'s Reverie said serving burgers "helps build trust" with his customers. "Not everyone wants to do a tasting menu or get a whole roasted duck," Spero told the Washington City Paper. "We have the a la carte menu for that very reason."


Given today's restaurant business landscape, restaurateurs have to make the most of what they can, whether that's turning over tables or cutting burgers from the menu altogether. So, if there's a restaurant you like to frequent, perhaps instead of making the mistake of ordering a burger medium rare (because of potential foodborne illnesses) you should forgo it all together. Maybe step a little outside of your comfort zone and order a chef's special, or something else off the menu.