How the Burger Battle Achieved an Economic Impact of $ 1 Million in 9 Years

Annual Burger Battle in downtown Sioux Falls started nine years ago with just seven restaurants.

Since then, it has grown to 24 competing downtown restaurants in the 2021 promotion selling over 31,000 burgers combined.

From ‘burger brawlers’ eating all the burgers in the competition, to Burger Battle nail designs, burger cupcakes and international recognition, the annual Burger Battle has integrated into the city’s economic, cultural and community fabric. in less than 10 years. Competition has even spread to towns surrounding Sioux Falls such as Hartford, Vermillion and Dell Rapids.

“You can’t go on Facebook or have an informal chat in Sioux Falls in January without hearing about the Burger Battle,” said Sadie Swier, DTSF’s community outreach manager. “It has become an exciting phenomenon to plan and integrate, but also to see so many people fall in love and get involved.

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This year’s competition is set to be even bigger than last year with 27 restaurants competing for the title starting January 1. Swier hopes an additional 4,000 burgers will be sold in the 2022 competition.

Steve Esser assembles the Uptowner burger on Tuesday, February 2 at Papa Woody's in Sioux Falls.

But how could it have been so successful so quickly?

The promotion was launched as a last-minute idea at a DTSF meeting in 2013, said Brienne Maner, executive director of Startup Sioux Falls and responsible for communications and members of the DTSF when the Battle of Burger began. .

DTSF companies and organizers were “desperate” by a promotion on the first Friday of January 2014 that would encourage people to “trot in the cold” for a historically slow month to restaurants and stores because they are not inclined to go out due to the weather and recent vacation. .

But if DTSF convinces a person to visit downtown – for an art show, meeting friends for a drink, or a burger – that person would have to spend $ 35 every time they come downtown, a Swier said referring to a recent study.

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“We know that if someone is going downtown to eat a burger, they are more than likely to stop at another store for dessert, a drink or go shopping,” Maner said.

Last year’s contest generated $ 436,606 and resulted in an estimated economic impact of $ 940,850 for the community of Sioux Falls. For someone who ate at all 24 restaurants last year, it would cost around $ 500 including tax and tip.

Brian Kidd takes a bite of a B&C raclette burger on Monday, January 13 at the Bread and Circus Sandwich Kitchen in Sioux Falls.

The burgers and the battle just keep on growing

In the first five years of the Burger Battle, the competition didn’t even beat 10 participating restaurants until 2019. Maner said this was because burgers were not normally on the menu at several downtown restaurants. town and that the owners weren’t willing to take a chance. the promotion.

“Like selling any new idea, you don’t have a history or a metric. They just go on faith,” Maner said. “We were pleasantly surprised at the number of people who participated this first year and we have done our best to create as much excitement as possible.”

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In the second year of the competition, 1,500 burger tasters ate and submitted their scores. The number doubled in 2018. In 2019, The Market, which won the competition against 12 competitors, sold 8,100 burgers.

The competition spurred more downtown activity during its nearly 10-year run, Maner recalled, including the DTSF winter carnival and a pop-up ice rink.

Conner McMahan prepares two B&C Raclette Burgers on Monday, January 13, 2020 at the Bread and Circus Sandwich Kitchen in Sioux Falls.

“People were more and more convinced that it wasn’t just a fluke. It wasn’t just a one-off thing,” Maner said. “It’s no surprise to me that a food promotion fits so well in a city that loves to eat.”

Each year, the growing list of restaurateurs plans months ahead of the competition and make their own specialty burger to show off their creativity and taste. The list has grown to include non-traditional restaurants that don’t typically specialize in burgers, such as Papa Woody’s Wood Fire Pizza and Boki European Street Food.

The promotion is a fun event, but it is essential to keeping the downtown area healthy and alive, Maner said, especially given last year’s promotion during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Over 1,000 burgers were sold every day during the 2021 competition.

“It’s a success or a break in a certain sense for these restaurants,” Maner said. “Taking the next step during the pandemic might have saved some businesses. It sounds silly to say that a burger fight is a big deal, but it has literally saved businesses. “

While Swier expects January 2022 to be another month filled with red meat, she plans to expand the competition further and become a tourism engine for Sioux Falls during the winter.

“At its core, the Burger Battle brings people together,” Swier said. “We want the Downtown Burger Battle to be not just a community event, but a must-see event at the regional and state level.”

James C. Tibbs