Hamilton’s Annual Burger Festival Sets New Records

Novemburger WinnersSince 2014, Novemburger has been a staple on the annual calendar of Hamilton’s burgeoning culinary scene. The festival concept is simple: restaurants create special burgers that are offered on their menus for the month of November only. That burger is designated as their “Novemburger”. All of the burgers are promoted by urbanicity Omnimedia and displayed on the festival website: novemburger.ca. The burger-loving public then spends the month enjoying the best burgers they’ve ever had, discovering new restaurants, and rating the burgers on the festival site. When the dough settles, one burger is crowned the Novemburger of the Year, and one restaurant wins the title for selling the most burgers during the festival. Then, a dollar from the sale of every single Novemburger is donated to the United Way or Burlington and Greater Hamilton! These funds are used to support social programs and initiatives in the local community.

This year, the festival broke every single record it had previously set. While the final figures are still being tabulated at the time of printing this magazine (the reality of being a monthly magazine reporting on a festival that ends at the end of the month!), estimates are that over 10,000 Novemburgers were sold in the 30 days of November this year. The previous high was just shy of 7,000 burgers in 2014. Web traffic climbed by nearly 50%, the festival trended #1 in Hamilton on Twitter, and 56 restaurants participated (up from a previous high of 31).

A huge THANK YOU is due to all Novemburger participants, restaurants, and promoters this year. While everyone may have gained a few pounds in the process, an estimated $10,000+ was raised for local programming through the United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton. Beyond that, there’s a strong chance you’ve discovered a new restaurant or two in the process!
From The Other Side of the Counter...
THIRSTY CACTUS – Cathy Nesbitt, GM

You’re known for being die-hard about this festival. Why did you get involved this year? What do you like about the festival?
We’ve been doing Novemburger since the beginning so it was only natural for us to participate this year. The buzz around the festival gives us a chance to bring folks out who might not come to Dundas otherwise. Our head chef Pete is a remarkably talented guy and it’s fun for us to let him take the brakes off and just come up with something original and exciting every November.

GREEN BAR – Sara Wiseman
Why did you get involved with the festival this year?
We got involved in the event to help support the United Way and also because we thought it would be a fun event to participate in. We wanted to show people how delicious a meatless burger can be.

BLISS KITCHEN – Meagan Wright
Most restaurants in Novemburger are in older urban Hamilton. What attracted you as a Waterdown business?
We very proudly consider ourselves a part of Hamilton. We love the food movement happening in Hamilton and are happy that we could spread the vibe to our hometown of Waterdown.

Black and White BurgerARCHITECT HAIR DESIGN – Peter Mokrycke
As the only “not really a restaurant” participating, what did you find worked and didn’t work?
What worked best for us as a non-restaurant is understanding, and respecting that we are not a restaurant. Our business is barbering, not burgering. So, instead of trying to drive sales by focusing on restaurant things, we decided to focus on driving volume by price. Because we were essentially selling a product that is outside of our business model, we were at an honest advantage; we didn’t need to make a profit. With that said, we chose to sell our Man Buns at cost (and at a loss with a haircut!). Obviously, this isn’t something that a restaurant should sensibly replicate because that would cannibalize their profits, but for a non-restaurant like us, it creates a pretty low-cost participation option for customers. As a result, we were able to have some fun and participate, while helping to create value for the event, its partners, and also, our customers.

What did your restaurants learn through participating in Novemburger this year that you’ll bring to the festival in 2017?
We at Unique Restaurant Group always look to be innovative, and creating fun and tasteful burgers for Novemburger allows us to have our own internal burger champion and the bragging rights for the year. We believe our price points were very competitive for each burger (each one included a choice of side) and worked well for us. Each location endorsed the festival with multiple levels of print advertising along with all the wait staff verbally promoting the burger. Now the bar just gets raised for next year across our locations.

HAMBRGR – Patricia Savoie
What happens to Jonald now that the festival is done?
Without saying too much, Jonald is pretty busy planning a huge party for our newest location on Ottawa Street North opening early 2017.