The quality of entrants so far in the inaugural Britain's Best Pub Burger competition has been a wonderful example of how pubs are beating casual dining chains at their own game.
With just over 24 hours to go until the deadline for Britain's Best Pub Burger competition, in association with Shipyard Beer, it is brilliant to see how far pubs have come in such a short space of time.
When I was a student back in the early Noughties, the situation was simple. You went to a pub to have a cheap "burger and a beer" deal. This would normally be less than a fiver – in one case, a quite ridiculous £1.99, I remember, for a burger, chips, and a pint of continental lager – and that was it.
The Burgers were frozen. The Chips were frozen. Beer wasn't far off frozen.
Oh, how things have changed in the past decade. Challenged by the likes of Byron Burgers, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, and Meat Liquor, there has been little choice but for pubs to up their game.
It hasn't been easy, but it has happened. And this competition is wonderful proof.
Having monitored the entries as they've come in, I can say with confidence that, when the final shortlisted pubs are revealed in the coming days, it will show a collection of burgers which not only hold their own against the high street offer, but even the artisanal street food vendors with their magnificent, greasy, flavour bombs.
Freshly made, locally sourced, and full of flavour, the ingredients of many of our entrants' burgers have really blown us away. The thought that has gone into them from bun to patty and all the elements in between is brilliant. And, of course, the beer.
These are burgers to wash down with flavoursome craft beers - and publicans tell us many of them are.
Perhaps most impressive is how many of the pubs have marketed their burgers for the 21st century diner. They've seen the future and it is a filtered, square photo on Instagram, with a million hashtags added. They've supersized, supercharged and super-spiced their burgers to make sure the smartphone generation will be whipping out their gadgets and sharing the dishes online.
The Britain's Best Pub Burger competition has highlighted pubs at their most innovative, trend-setting, and aware that the only way to grab the under-35 market is to be the best of the best in the marketplace. And pubs have really done it. Congrats to all entrants – you've done the pub burger proud.
P.S. It isn't too late to enter! Share your burger using #BestPubBurger @inapub on social media by Midnight, 31 July 2018.