The best burger in the world comes from Brazil!
On my recent trip to Brazil, where I was invited by ABIA to share an overview of the European foodservice market at its annual foodservice congress, I was lucky enough to visit Madero. This highly competitively-priced chain claims to serve the best burger in the world and I would wholeheartedly agree that they appear to do just that. It was hands down one of the best things I’ve ever eaten and certainly the best burger I’ve been fortunate enough to eat.
Interestingly, I was invited by ABIA to give the Brazilian foodservice industry an insight into the European market, to give them information and knowledge to develop its offering. Yet, I feel the Brazilian market does itself a dis-service by downplaying its imagination and innovation. I experienced some fantastic concepts while I was there and enjoyed some truly delicious food.
The shopping malls seems to be where all the restaurants are. Elodorado, which I visited in Sao Paolo includes a food court and seven full service restaurants, each serving around 100 covers. Late morning, on the Friday I visited, the restaurants were 80% full. And, I’m told that this is normal for every day of the week. It’s a far cry from the restaurants in UK shopping centres – those that do still exist often resort to vouchers and lunchtime deals to get people through the door. Yet, perhaps it is a question of geography; I’m told that in Brazil, the only alternative to eating in a shopping centre is a very local offering; the casual dining market does not exist on the high street, as it does here.
Another observation I made is the common offering of ‘buying by the kilo’ which I came across at several operators such as the bakery chain Amor aos Pedacos A special price is given for a kilo of product, encouraging consumers to buy that little bit extra.
Being Brazil, a high number of restaurants are beef-led and Mania de Churrasco is a chain with 59 units across Brazil, with all but one located in shopping malls. The express offer (they also have a full service offer), splits its dining into day parts. It’s a slice of beef at lunch and a burger for dinner. I think in the UK, it would be vice versa, but it’s an interesting concept that works well. The express offer is served at lunchtime and then at a certain time of day it switches to a sit down offer and the kitchen is set up accordingly. This day part shift is done very well and there’s definitely something to be said for focusing on one thing at a time and doing it really well; something that a lot of UK restaurants have failed to do in the last few years and suffered the consequences.
I saw sushi, poke, great coffee - all the offers that you would see in Europe. I also saw something that we don’t really eat over here anymore; jacket potatoes. Cheap to produce, they are sold as an upmarket item creating a high profit margin for the operator. The chain I visited - Baked Potato - also served large size gnocchi with fillings. A clever idea that adds variety to their offering whilst staying true to its core potato product.
Salad bars are very popular and I noticed that the set-up of McDonald’s was a little different to Europe. There is a large area for the core McDonald’s offer, a McCafé and a separate stand-alone Casquinha kiosk which sells yoghurts, milkshakes and desserts. Sadly, I didn’t have enough time to try a burger, which was a shame as it would have been interesting to see what the beef quality was like. Better than here, I wonder?
I spent a lot of time investigating the delivery business and, as I found recently in India and France, the issues for operators seem to be the same wherever you go. The high rates of commission and the reduced level of customer engagements are significant downsides. And, the growth of cloud kitchens is noted everywhere.
I also had the opportunity of exchanging views at a meeting with a number of leading delivered wholesalers. Although both Sysco and Bidvest have an interest in the Brazilian market, it is still dominated by small, family owned businesses. I suspect that the market will consolidate as it searches for profitability through growing economies of scale and in the face of increasing sophisticated competition. But the process in Brazil is likely to be slow since most families seem uninterested in selling out (especially to large international players). This is definitely something to watch.
Overall, I got the feeling that the Brazilian foodservice market may be a few years behind the UK in terms of concentration but in many respects – in delivery for example – it is just as sophisticated as the UK market and perhaps even more sophisticated than some other European foodservice markets.