Hamburgers, at least the ones not made on a grill in our backyards, were the original fast food. Chains like McDonald’s offered cheap, tasty burgers at low prices to a not-very-discerning public.
In the past few years, though, that has changed. McDonald’s and its fast-food rivals still sell low-cost hamburgers, but they have faced market pressure from chains and start-ups trying to do it better. Companies like Five Guys, In-N-Out Burger, Shake Shack, and others pushed the idea of what a fast-food burger could be. They used better meat, higher-end ingredients, and generally committed to the idea that this classic American sandwich could be both good and not-all-that-expensive.
These fast-casual restaurants – though they generally won’t use the phrase – hope to be the Chipotle of hamburgers, a game-changing force that breaks out from the restaurant pack.