Burger giant threatens Macca’s
WATCH out golden arches, because there's a new Big M in town.
The biggest burger chain in Japan, known as MOS Burger, is looking to open around 100 stores across the country within the next five years - after having success with its six store locations in Queensland.
According to the Courier-Mail, the $560 million company - which stands for Mountain, Ocean, Sun - hopes to take advantage of our growing love of Japanese-inspired food, combined with our equal love for burgers.
With over 1600 locations worldwide, including stores in Taiwan, Japan and Singapore, expanding their reach in Australia is no surprise move. Because, let's face it, consumers Down Under are pretty obsessed with their burgers.
According to IbisWorld, the burger business has grown yearly revenue to $4.2 billion - as of March 2016 - with growth expected to continue over the next few years.
Recently, the roll out of more 'gourmet' burger creations - from ingredients to cooking methods - coincides with Australian consumers and their growing health awareness.
As a result, traditional Fast Food and Takeaway methods have taken a turn when it comes to ordering lunch and dinner. And when it comes to a burger, all eyes are on what brings everything together - the bun. And that's where MOS likes to do things a little differently.
Founded in 1972, Satoshi Sakurada adapted his love of American hamburgers to the tastes of Japanese palettes - by including rice buns and teriyaki chicken to the menu.
MOS pitches itself as a "gourmet" burger chain that is healthier than its main rivals and has a range of burgers with Asian-style tastes, including teriyaki and soy.
The chain was the first one to introduce rice burgers in their menu back in 1987, and soon they became popular across East Asia.
For the unfamiliar, a rice burger is a variation of a traditional hamburger and does not use regular burger buns. Instead, compressed rice, shaped like buns, is used to hold the meat and other ingredients together.
These rice burgers are filled with ingredients and an assortment of vegetables that include lettuce, pickled radish, tomato and corn among others.
Typically, the buns are toasted and scorched to give them a subtle crunch and smoky flavour.
Some burgers are sold on pressed rice buns rather than traditional wheat buns. The company has hardly altered its menu for Australia, although it has increased the burger sizes by 20 per cent along with its prices to accommodate local appetites.
"The sizes of our burgers are slightly bigger to suit the Australian market, but we keep the taste to stay the same," General Manager Yasufumi Sato told QSR Media.
In an interview with Goodman Fielder, Sarah Robbins from Sydney's Bar Luca said a "really good bun" can influence the overall burger.
"(At Bar Luca) we use a milk bun, which I think is great because nothing falls apart (while you are) half way through eating the burger,' she explained.
"The milk bun also doesn't over power the recipe's ingredients, where Brioche are a bit done and dusted now because they are too sweet."
With the rise of kombucha and kale in cafe's and health food stores, our obsession with burgers - and their high calorie content - hasn't taken a hit when it comes to consumption.
In an interview with The New Daily, Jimmy Hurlston - known for his burger blog Jimmy's Burgers - they still stand as the "perfect cheat meal".
"The burger has been able to progress through the "fitspo" (short for fitness inspiration) generation because it is the ultimate cheat meal," Mr Hurlston said.
"They look big, juicy, fattening and can be split with friends. It is easy to be shared on social media which allows the attraction to grow.
"And at the end of the day if a burger is made using good products, it looks a cheat, but may not be."
MOS Burger's first Australian store was opened in Brisbane, and dramatically exceeded expectations. Now, they have stores in Sunnybank, Surfers Paradise, Australia Fair, Pacific Fair and Westfield Garden City (Upper Mt Gravatt).
But with the rice buns comes a point of difference - and a play that is crucial for the ever-changing food industry.
When it comes to eating out - whether it be for breakfast, lunch, dinner or anything in-between - it's now customary to take a cheeky snap of your meal.
Using the photo-sharing social network to document what we're eating, we're also using it to decide where to eat too.
According to research by Zizzi - a chain of restaurants in the UK - 18 to 35-year-olds spend five whole days a year browsing food images on Instagram, and 30 per cent would avoid a restaurant if their Instagram presence was weak.
According to The Independent, for most millennials it's now normal to sit down in a restaurant having already decided what you're going to order because you've spent a few minutes stalking on Instagram in advance.
According to the Financial Review, Japanese cuisine has blitzed all other cuisines to become the hottest trend in Australian contemporary dining today. And the idea of fusing two of our biggest loves (sushi and burgers), seems to be taking off.
The increased awareness of the nutritional content of fast food and a conscious effort by consumers to choose healthier options have affected industry demand. Industry operators have responded by introducing a range of healthier, premium choices with less fat, sugar and salt.
This change in consumer preferences has also led to an influx of new operators offering higher quality fast food options. According to IbisWorld, revenue is expected to rise at an annualised 3.7 per cent over the five years through to 2017-18, to $19.7 billion.
So should McDonald's be nervous?
Former McDonald's executive Tom Jolly, who has joined MOS Burger as its general manager for Australia to lead the local expansion, said the chain was determined to succeed in our market with its Japanese-inspired menu items.
"The biggest change in our industry is people moving to fast-casual dining. People want to socialise around food.
"It is very important to keep that Japanese flavour," says Mr Jolly. "The premium burger market is saturated. There are five outlets within walking distance of our CBD store. If we can use a Japanese pickle on a burger we will."
News.com.au has contacted MOS Burgers for comment.