Smashburger hopes the Columbus area one day becomes the company's biggest market in Ohio.
Smashburger hopes the Columbus area one day becomes the company’s biggest market in Ohio.
The Denver-based burger chain — named for its process of smashing burgers on the grill to sear in the juices — is scheduled to open its second local store on Wednesday at 552 S. State St. in Westerville. The first one opened in Gahanna in February.
“Columbus will probably be a 20- or 30-restaurant market for us, over time,” CEO Dave Prokupek said. “We’ll either be adding corporately or helping our franchisee, Drew Hansen, expand. It’s going to be a fairly big market for us.”
Food-concept developer Tom Ryan founded Smashburger in Denver in 2007. Ryan also is managing partner and chief concept officer for Consumer Capital Partners, the Denver investment and operating company that owns Smashburger.
The “better burger” chain — classified for its made-to-order burgers, unique side dishes and craft beer — posted a 256 percent sales increase during the past year and is on track to have 250 restaurants by the end of 2013, a spokeswoman said.In the United States, Smashburger had sales of $162 million in fiscal 2012, a 40 percent increase in same-store sales compared with the previous year, according to Nation’s Restaurant News, an industry publication. It ended the year with 186 U.S. stores, the publication said.
Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Smashburger’s main competitor, is way ahead with more than 1,000 U.S. stores and $1 billion in annual sales, the publication said. But Smashburger is one of the fastest-growing chains in the $100 billion-a-year burger category, which “got a little stale for a good long time,” Prokupek said.
“We entered six years ago, and in terms of defining the category, we’re creating a great $5, cooked-to-order burger using certified Angus beef.”
Nonbeef offerings, such as grilled chicken, spicy black bean burgers and salads enable those who aren’t burger lovers to “enjoy the restaurant just as much as the burger lovers,” he said.
In Ohio, the restaurants serve a Buckeye Smashburger, which is a one-third pound burger topped with fried pepper rings, haystack onions, American cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on a toasted egg bun.
“You can walk in and have a burger any way you want it, or you can have one of our great recipes, starting at $5,” Prokupek said.
Add a side item, like flash-fried carrot sticks and green beans, or a Haagen-Dazs shake, and “ you have a great $8-$10 meal,” he said.
Prokupek, who has worked with Smashburger since it opened its second restaurant, sees his company with 50 or 60 restaurants in Ohio within six or seven years. So far, it has three restaurants in Dayton and five in Cincinnati.
“I’m looking to grow in Cleveland right now,” he said.
Plans are one thing and the ability to execute them is another. One observer of the restaurant industry thinks Smashburger’s plans for growth in central Ohio are possible.
“Is that in the realm of possibility? Yes,” said Dennis Lombardi, executive vice president of food-service strategies for WD Partners, a restaurant consulting firm in Columbus.
And although the better-burger category has been around for years, “It’s still a very fast-growing segment,” Lombardi said. “However, within the industry, some of the more interesting buzz is around fast-casual pizza/Italian concepts.”