The new 'posh' burgers offer a nicer environment (but slower service). They offer higher prices (with free extras and points). It is all rather confusing.
Most industrialised nations are undergoing a burger revolution. Standard unpretentious burgers are out and the gourmet burger is in- but how much difference is there between the two in reality?
Gourmet Burger Kitchen (or GBK as it now styles itself) was the first premium burger chain to make its mark in the UK spreading outward from a few trendy London locations.
McDonald's is feeling the heat and is closing branches rapidly. This seems quite strange because they are always busy while GBK is generally empty. McDonald's have gone upmarket and downmarket simultaneously by having a 99p menu and a premium range.
This dismal site was a busy McDonalds just three days previously. It is interesting that McDonalds is always busy but is closing branches while GBK is generally empty but is going from strength to strength.
GBK sought to establish itself as a 'proper' restaurant by employing someone to show me to my seat -although it made no difference where I sat as was the only customer. I was asked if I wanted the burger rare or well done and offered a number of sauces that meant nothing to me. I chose one at random and sat down, wondering if I should be irritated by this burger with delusions of grandeur.
At GBK I chose the 'blue cheese burger' with side salad. This came to £7.95 which is expensive for a quarter pounder.
At McDonald's I chose the 'bacon clubhouse' which was the closest match I could find to the GBK offering. It came to £6.09 with fries and a coffee which is still a premium price. I ate it at a wobbly table which I shared with a stranger.
The GBK was delicious. I was particularly taken with the small salad with vinaigrette but felt a drink should have been included for the price. Nevertheless I felt that the experience should be more special than it was in light of the build up given to it through the ordering procedure.
The clubhouse burger from McDonald's was also good but resembled cheaper products by the same chain. It had what seemed to be a standard quarter pounder with bacon, salad and big mac sauce. The aim seemed to be acceptability rather than excellence. Many McDonald's customers are brought to the chain by their children and children are easily scared by new flavours. No options were offered. Fries and drink were standard for the chain.
GBK have the better loyalty scheme. They have an app that offers one free item approximately once every two and a half visits. This mitigates the premium price and may mean the GBK product is the cheaper of the two when this is allowed for.
McDonald's have a coffee card. Six stamps are worth one coffee.
There is no clear winner here. I will probably return to GBK because I was curious about the other items and because I am a sucker for loyalty schemes. If you wish to fill your stomach quickly go to McDonald's but do not choose a premium burger. If you wish to sit down for a while in pleasant surroundings choose the GBK. Service will be slower because the burger will be cooked for you but this will not bother us if our intention is to take the weight off our feet.
Few people choose to go to McDonald's. One passes a branch and feels hungry but one does not choose to go there deliberately.
GBK wants to be a destination and a place one feels comfortable to linger. The seats in McDonald's are slightly uncomfortable and the high energy environment tends to move one on the moment one is finished. GBK has lower lighting and more comfortable seats.