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What does it take to smash the fast food industry?


“A partnership of like minds” explains Smashburger’s Founder and Chief Concept Officer Tom Ryan, as he describes his business venture with Managing Director Tim Lowther.

The duo are currently working on their latest UK expansion plans for the ‘fast casual’ burger chain, setting their sites on two potential UK openings before the end of the year. The stores will add to Smashburger‘s total of 310 corporate and franchise restaurants across 34 states and seven international countries.

Smashburger is in safe hands, with the associates holding over 60 years of experience in the food industry between them. Ryan introduced McFlurries, The Dollar Menu and McGriddles to McDonalds.  

Ryan highlights three primary points to consider when targeting an international market, the first to make sure there is a primary demand for the product.  

Smashburger’s Denver and Minneapolis based CCO is excited about the prospect of introducing the brand to the UK, explaining that it wants “to go places where burgers are known and loved”. According to Ryan, there is a “Primary demand for beef and burgers”.  

Ryan also urges retailers to look for a robust economy, and the ability to protect investments to grow in a healthy economic environment. This is essential for any retailer looking to expand - not just in the food industry. To make logistical sense, a locations financial situation is vital for profitable growth.

He also emphasises the importance of looking for “talented, passionate and smart” partners, who need to be passionate about the, “juicy burger you can taste in every bite”. He found this person in Lowther. “Within 5 minutes of meeting we were in the kitchen smashing burgers - I’m an operator, I roll my sleeves up and get involved,” he comments.

How will Smashburger prepare for its project?

Though a first location is yet to be confirmed (there are hopes for a London flagship), “it’s less about breaking into a new area, more about being a partnership” explains Lowther. According to Ryan, the pair have a vision, one to, “create a burger that people could feel passionate about again”.  

Although the overall brand should be prioritised, location is important and plays into the need for retailers to understand their new market. Ryan doesn’t pretend to know real estate or the UK market. Instead Lowther, an expert in the field, having introduced Shake Shack to the UK and Five Guys to the North of England, is assisting him.

The “local offerings” are a hit for the Smashburger chain, which prides itself on people having, “a unique local experience in each location”. Ryan is keen to be a, “part of each community” Smashburger goes into and to let the brand tell a story:

“It’s all about who has food with a story and how does that food make you feel about eating there”

Ryan, who personally favours the “very rich, very decadent” Truffle mushroom Swiss burger with a fried egg, is confident that the chain will stand out. Its unique ‘smashing’ cooking method, diverse menu and takeout option provide consumers with variety, while still catering to local taste buds. Who knows, “there could be a haggis version with Irn-Bru served soon” Lowther jokes.

Published on Wednesday 22 April by Rachel Gee

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