Gourmet Burger Kitchen looks to tech to stand out in crowded premium burger category

The premium burger category has grown significantly since Gourmet Burger Kitchen was the first to launch into it in 2001. In order to maintain its status as leader, GBK, which has now expanded to 60 stores across the UK, is looking to digital and innovation.

The burger chain has released a digital order and collect service through its GBK app which allows customers to order from the full menu through mobile then collect at a time of their choosing from their nearest restaurant, as well as receive rewards through the app’s stamp collection system.

The launch is being pushed through the #GladIClicked promotion, which will see the company give away 1,000 burgers to those who click links on its Twitter and Facebook pages.

The move is an effort for the chain to drive frequency of visits by tapping into the growing trend of click-and-collect tools within retail, with the company citing the success of similar offerings from John Lewis and Asos.

Katie McDermott, marketing director of GBK, told Marketing Week: “You only have to look at the growth of some of the takeaway chains and apps available to see how it’s on the rise. Consumers are getting used to it and it’s something that’s part of their day-to-day life now. Why should that not also be available in casual dining?”

She adds that the company has seen much higher levels of takeaway orders in its central London restaurants such as St. Paul’s and Canary Wharf where “lunchtime is precious”, with the service now giving people the opportunity to order at their desks and collect at a time that suits them in what she calls a more “seamless” experience.

McDermott says the GBK app, which was developed to reward loyal customers for visiting the store, has seen 400,000 downloads since its launch in 2012 and has allowed the company to gain insights into its customers. She says that 10% of customers are using the app on a weekly basis, and many are using mobile to redeem awards.

“The app has worked really well for us and we’ve seen increased frequency,” she says. “Customers are more engaged with what we’re doing, so investing in this is the right next step for us.”

GBK is also hoping that along with the opening of ten new restaurants in 2015, its push into digital will help it stand out amongst the fast growing premium burger category.

Since its launch, GBK shares space in most major cities with the likes of Byron and Honest Burger, as well as the more modest Five Guys and Shake Shack.

“The growth of the category can only be a good thing as the premium burger market has lots of focus and attention,” McDermott says. “But it’s more and more important for us to differentiate and stand out. Even though we’ve been around the longest, by no means can we rest on our laurels.”

McDermott says other burger brands have encouraged GBK to push innovation in order to differentiate, looking to its menu, which features the likes of cod, lamb, falafel and buffalo burgers, as well as to the launch of its app and now its click-and-collect offering in order to create standout.

She also says the brand has pushed £3m into refurbishing its restaurants following a brand refresh 18 months ago.

Despite its tough competition, the company is in its fourteenth quarter of like-for-like positive growth according to McDermott, and has seen its sales grow by 50% in a little over four years.

Now, she says GBK will continue to push innovation, with new specials launching in the lead up to Easter.

“This year will be about continuing the positive momentum we’ve had with sales and continuing to innovate and improve what we do,” she says.

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