PSFK speaks to an owner who believes that the next step in the fast food revolution is a health conscious one that focuses on the quality of the ingredients.
What is it about Denver that makes people start fast food chains? (Chipotle anyone?) Colorado’s Smashburger has moved on east and planted a flag in Fort Greene, Brooklyn and is planning for two more locations in NYC later this year. With over 100 restaurants open nationwide it’s unfair to call the company a startup, but it’s only been around for four years. The rapid expansion is in no small part due to the taste and quality of the burgers, which are made with certified (and never frozen) Angus beef, fresh vegetables, and quality cheeses.
After speaking to the chain’s founder, Tom Ryan, and Brooklyn franchisee, Jim Denburg, it became clear that the big innovation is in more than the quality driven menu, which boasts hot dogs, veggie options, and salads. It’s common knowledge that success in restaurant chains is directly tied to real estate overhead and the number crunching that goes with it. As a food industry veteran with executive experience at McDonald’s and Quizno’s, Ryan knows this all too well.
At Smashburger Brooklyn, Denburg is able to operate out of a 1700 square foot space as if it’s a 2800 square foot store. This is directly related to the chain’s cornerstone product, “smashed” burgers. As Ryan explained to me smashing the meat cuts cooking time by more than half, making Smashburger all the more attractive to franchisees. Ryan was able to take his corporate experience and create a product that is made from quality ingredients, affordable, and uses it’s cost cutting technique of smashing the burger on the grill as it’s unique selling proposition.
Smashburger is not the first place in America to serve burgers cooked in this way. They are however, the first serious burger chain to combine cut-throat big business methodology with a menu that calls for quality and at times healthy recipes. If you are going to take our cash and get obscenely rich all we ask is that you give us a quality meal. This is a cry that chains like McDonald’s refuse to listen to. It may just be that people like Ryan, who had the experience and cash to get something started, are going to be the one’s to lead the fast food industry to it’s next major evolution.