Jamie Klingler on National Burger Day

The digital wunderkind talks about what makes a great burger and taking the concept from idea to nationwide annual event

(Image credit: ©Chris Coulson)

Five years ago we were brainstorming a marketing idea for Mr Hyde, which is a daily email for men in London mostly about food and drink. We were trying to come up with something that would really get people's attention and get them excited. It was the summer that Street Feast was doing Taco Wars and Ribstock and lots of food competitions with great chefs. I was spending much of my summer there personally and we came up with the idea to do National Burger Day. Nobody was celebrating it here whereas the US has a National Burger Day and a National Cheeseburger Day, so I just thought it was an easy win.

There's two parts to National Burger Day; one part is that restaurants give 20% off so that people up and down the country can enjoy burgers, and the second part is having a massive party for it with Street Feast.

The first year we managed to persuade Meat Liquor to give their first ever discount. They were the first restaurant on board, so with that in my back pocket, I approached tonnes and tonnes of restaurants. It took a lot of graft, a lot of phone calls and a lot of knocking on people's doors asking them to take part because it wasn't going to be 'National' unless we got everyone on board and we had to have the enthusiasm for it. The first year we had 176 restaurants take part, which we thought was a huge amount. The second year we had 250, the third year – when social media really started to take off – we had 450 and then last year went absolutely huge with 950 restaurants.

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This year we've had our first sponsors, Pepsi Max, French's mustard and Frank's RedHot sauce, which is exciting, and we're on track to top a thousand restaurants taking part. We had 54,000 people download vouchers last year and Gourmet Burger Kitchen told us they had 35% more people come in on National Burger Day than on any other day in August, so it has a real effect on the restaurant industry.

(Image credit: ©Chris Coulson)

I love burgers – of course! – and the British burger industry has definitely grown in quality. I actually think we've got some better options here than in the States. I think an Honest burger and a Bleecker burger can stand up to any American counterpart. I'm a real traditionalist so, say if I want a pulled pork sandwich, I'll get a pulled pork sandwich, I wouldn't get a burger with pulled pork on it. Give me a good burger, medium rare, with cheese, pickles and a toasted bun and I'm your girl.

When it comes to creating a national food day, in the first instance you just kind of do it and hope it picks up steam and that people get excited about it. Once there's articles published about it and you get accreditation, then it appears on Wikipedia and once it becomes part of the UK National Days of the Year website then you can do it every year after that. A lot of the time, when you have these national food days, they're sponsored by a food brand but being a non-burger brand allowed us to reach out to all the restaurants without them feeling like they were going to get second rank.

When I meet strangers and my friends joke that I invented National Burger Day, they say 'yeah right, nobody makes up these days', but I can actually say that I really did! I have very much pervasively lived the brand for the past five years – it's become my fun fact at dinner parties and it's so much a part of my personality. Last year Time Out ran a picture of my dog in her burger hat and that's when I felt like I'd finally made it.

Philadelphia-born Jamie Klingler is founder of the Mr Hyde National Burger Day, which takes place on 24 August; nationalburgerday.co.uk

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