Premium restaurants spark ‘burger war’ in Marseille

Five Guys is one of the "premium burger" brands hotting up the market in France

The surge in popularity in premium burger restaurants across Marseille and other towns in the south of France has sparked a so-called “burger war”.

American chain Five Guys has just opened in Aix-en-Provence, while a new opening of the Steak’n’Shake group arrived in Marseille at nearly the same time, as reported in French news source 20 Minutes.

Instead of the usual quick-to-make, super-cheap fast food option, “premium burgers” are said to be made with carefully-sourced produce and high-end ingredients.

Average spend per customer usually sits between €10-20.

And yet, Steak’n’Shake - itself an established American group - opened its most recent site in Marseille this week, and claims to offer the same quality as its high-end competitors but for a much lower price.

The group’s first location in France opened in Plan-de-Campagne, and it is now planning to significantly add to its estate of 16 restaurants across France, with five more locations expected across Marseille by 2019, including two more next year.

“All of our products are fresh, and our prices are lower than those of our competitors,” claims Jérémy Baran, holder of the franchise in Marseille, speaking to 20 Minutes.

“The average spend is around €10. Price-wise we compare to [American fast food giant] McDonald’s, but quality-wise we are at [the level of premium brand] Five Guys.

“We want to ‘take over’ the city [as] Marseille is a very strategic area,” he added.

Marseille is also the site of the group Bar Bû, which has just opened a new site several hundred meters’ away from Steak’n’Shake, pitching itself as a ‘proper restaurant’ versus a ‘fast food joint’.

This includes waiters, table service, plates and cutlery, a wine list, and an average spend of around €20 per person.

“Our bread is made by a bakery, our cheese is refined, and we work with products such as cep mushrooms, truffle, and foie gras. It’s American food done in a French way,” said Jérémy Bigoto, manager at Bar Bû.

Marseille is also set to welcome the burger restaurant 231 East Street next year, along with the first opening of Carl Jr, a more-casual but still-higher-end option, also set for 2018.

And yet, despite this increased competition and interest, American behemoth Five Guys - whose burgers have been called “the best in the world” by former US President Barack Obama - has snubbed Marseille so far, preferring to open in Aix-en-Provence recently instead.

The group - which serves premium burgers but in a traditional ‘fast food’ environment - has six sites across France so far, of which four are in Ile-de-France.

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