America's love affair with the hamburger ... or at least the value menu

Aug. 8, 2011 at 8:32 PM ET

Americans are eating more hamburgers, and that's not necessarily because of the haute burger craze that seems to be sweeping the country (if it hasn't hit your city yet, well ... you're definitely missing out).

It's mostly because we're cheap or broke or some combination of the two.

Technomic, the food industry consulting group, notes in its most recent Burger Consumer Trend Report that growth is in part driven by the dollar menu. Or value menu. Or whatever your local drive-through-fries-with-that is calling their cheaper offerings.

(As an aside, it's worth noting in these particularly stressful economic times that it bodes well for the American economy's future that there is still enough money rattling around in this country to pay for people to put out things like Burger Consumer Trend Reports.)

The study found nearly half of consumers eat a burger a week, up from 38 percent two years ago.

“The value menu is certainly a big part of this increase in burger consumption,” says Sara Monnette, director of consumer research at Technomic. “There are other factors at work, however, as the specialty burger craze has driven growth in a way that is almost defiantly separate from pricing."

(As to the latter, we try to do our part by giving this place as much of our paycheck as is quasi-reasonable.)

Other facts from the report:

  • Younger eaters want vegetarian options. Technomic doesn't immediately say why. Probably because there is no good reason.
  • Half of consumers say steroid-free beef is important.
  • American cheese (ugh) is the most popular fast food cheeseburger. Taste improves at full-service joints, with cheddar being more popular.

Are you eating more burgers? What's your fave fast food one? Or splurge?