Highly stylised burgers look little like the real thing from the counter.

Fresh lettuce, crispy bacon, tender meat, perfectly melted cheese and a soft bun is what you expect when you order a burger - at least if the adverts are anything to go by.

In reality what you often get is a soggy bun, dripping sauce and limp lettuce inside your burger box.

Competition for your fast food dollar has never been fiercer. New US chains have arrived in the past few years and others have launched "make-your-own'" ranges.

But food stylist Dianne Kenderdine is sticking up for the burger joints, saying the disparities between what's served and advertised is down to differences in how they're prepared.


"The moment you put hot food against cold food, cold food starts to melt and the salad starts to wilt.

"Food [used for advertising] is photographed in a split second where things are at a temperature that they are not going to suddenly collapse on you.

When you get a burger to eat, you are getting a hot burger with a salad on top and that is going to make the difference."

Kenderdine - who has more than 30 years' styling experience, including styling for McDonald's and Burger King - said adverts were designed to show what ingredients were in a burger rather than how they would look.

She said the burger adverts had been put together carefully by a team of artists and cooled to prevent the salad from wilting.

The Herald on Sunday went to five popular Auckland burger chains - BurgerFuel, Burger King, Burger Wisconsin, Carls Jr and McDonald's - to compare the ads and the reality.

Most of the burger chains cited differences in the way the meals were prepared for advertising purposes and consumption as one of the reasons the products were not similar to the advertisements.

But Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said it was "misleading" if burger chains' creations varied greatly from what was advertised.

"Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, the item that you buy should be the item advertised and also under the Fair Trading Act you can't mislead people as to what they may be buying," she said.

"There is room in consumer law for puffery but it is a fine line and if you see something advertised, then you expect that is what you are going to get."

Advertising guidelines state the adverts are acceptable as long as the ingredients are the same and the product is fairly represented.

Chetwin said Consumer New Zealand had been approached by customers concerned with food products, but no action had been taken.

Kenderdine did not believe the difference between the product and the advertising was misleading. "It is not a misrepresentation.

Sadly these days so few people do a lot of cooking that they actually don't understand the cooking process."

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Please note: The graphic initially published with this story was incorrect - the images of the McDonald's serious angus burger and the Carl's Jr Jim Beam bourbon burger had been swapped around. We apologise for the error.