Openings and Closings

Is the Shuttering of Dee Lincoln's Burger Bar a Sign of the Burger Bubble Finally Popping?

Last year, I predicted 2015 would be the year the burger bubble burst in Dallas. Since that article was published, no fewer than 37 burger restaurants have opened. Maybe burgers are invincible -- the culinary equivalent of Kevlar and titanium -- but I still argue that Dallas has too many burger restaurants and not enough of everything else. And now Dee Lincoln comes to bolster my position.

On March 28, Dee Lincoln's Burger Bar in Uptown will close. Plans for a subsequent location on Oak Lawn Avenue (in the old La Duni's space) have been scrapped. All that remains is the Plano location, which is undergoing a branding overhaul reflecting a move away from beef and buns.

The Plano location had a more formal dining room than the Uptown one, and shortly after opening, Lincoln removed burgers from the menu. Dee Lincoln's became just-another-steakhouse, and now that the Plano location is all that remains, it's safe to assume the move was a good one. In fact, her recent announcement hints that Lincoln may be done with burgers for good.

Lincoln says she's going to continue to focus on the upscale steakhouse business model. That means $300 bottles of Cabernet and massive tomahawk steaks, which is enough to make me wonder if what's going on with her restaurants is a small indicator that the economy is shifting a little bit. Could diners be redirecting their discretionary spending away from fast casual dining and toward meals with more bling?

Last year, Bloomberg reported slowing growth in the fast-food sector. Ronald and the King have been selling fewer burgers, leading analysts to say the market is fairly well saturated, with little room for growth. It makes sense that the erosion of the better-burger trend would be close behind.

The burger bubble started when the economy soured, and flourished throughout the great recession and beyond as customers flocked to dining experiences that were simultaneously decadent and affordable. If Lincoln's customers are pushing her in the opposite direction and that trend continues, my burger prediction may not prove that far off after all.

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Scott Reitz
Contact: Scott Reitz