Burger 21, a “beyond the better burger” fast-casual franchise concept founded in 2010 by the owners of The Melting Pot Restaurants, Inc., recently announced that it is targeting Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, N.C. to grow its franchise.
Burger 21 is an affiliate of Front Burner Brands (formerly known as TGS Restaurant Management), a restaurant management company headquartered in Tampa, Fla. that provides management services to The Melting Pot Restaurants, Burger 21, GrillSmitth, and other new franchise concepts in development.
Dan Stone is the VP of Franchise Development for Front Burner Brands.
Prior to joining The Melting Pot Restaurants, Inc. in 2006 as director of franchise sales, Stone was the director of human resources and assistant general manager for Winegardner & Hammons, Inc., a professional hotel management firm that manages multiple hotel franchises nationwide, including Marriott and Embassy Suites. Stone is a Certified Franchise Executive (CFE) and a graduate of Penn State University with a bachelor’s degree in hotel, restaurant, and institutional management.
Franchise Chatter (FC): How many Burger 21 restaurants are currently open? What feedback have you received from customers regarding your concept, food, service, and price point?
Dan Stone (DS): Burger 21 currently has four company-owned locations open in Tampa Bay, Fla., and six franchised units in development in Orlando, Atlanta, and Voorhees, N.J.
Feedback from our customers gives us confidence in saying that the Burger 21 concept defines its own category within the burger business – beyond the better burger – offering quality, premium ingredients, innovative recipes, and a gourmet experience without the gourmet price.
FC: What are the most popular items on your menu? In terms of food, what is Burger 21 becoming known for?
DS: Burger 21’s most popular burger is The Cheesy beef burger, but it’s important to note that 40 percent of the burgers we sell are our non-beef burger creations, and 69 percent of our total sales are derived from non-beef menu items including our salads, shakes, and chicken tenders. Because of this, Burger 21 is becoming known for its variety as well as its premium ingredients and innovative recipes.
FC: How are you positioning the Burger 21 brand to compete effectively against other emerging “better burger” franchises, particularly in attracting customers and prospective franchisees?
DS: The owners have differentiated Burger 21 from other concepts with premium ingredients and a comprehensive and varied menu featuring 21 chef-inspired burger creations ranging from hand-crafted, freshly ground Angus beef to chicken, turkey, shrimp and tuna burgers, veggie burgers, made-to-order salads, Hebrew National all-beef hot dogs, hand-breaded chicken tenders, and an extensive shake bar including hand-dipped floats, shakes, and sundaes. In addition, Burger 21 features a dynamite sauce bar, an extensive kid’s menu, as well as a gluten-free menu.
Burger 21 fills a void in the burger business; hence, it has been very popular with families, females, and kids.
FC: In your experience, what is the ideal location and demographics for a “better burger” restaurant?
DS: In selecting sites for Burger 21 locations, we target high traffic centers with great access, synergy, strong tenant mix, and a lot of residential and office space nearby. We prefer to be in end-cap locations within shopping centers, or freestanding buildings that are not part of shopping centers if they are well located.
The highest concentration of our customers are in the 25 – 44 age range. Additionally, as a result of the variety on our menu, we have strong representation in all age groups amongst our customers, including families, 18 – 29 year olds, and those who are retired.
FC: Being a relatively straightforward concept, why should someone interested in opening a “better burger” restaurant consider going with a franchise — particularly, a relatively new franchise like Burger 21?
DS: With Burger 21 specifically, our franchisees benefit from nearly 30 years of franchising experience under our management company Front Burner Brands. Burger 21’s depth and infrastructure don’t represent a small brand. The company has developed training, systems, and support to assist in its franchisees’ success.
FC: Why have you targeted North Carolina, particularly Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, for Burger 21’s franchise expansion?
DS: Burger 21 is growing rapidly and we recognize a tremendous opportunity to expand the brand in North Carolina, including Charlotte, Raleigh, and Durham, which are among America’s fastest-growing cities. Over time, we envision the Charlotte, Raleigh, and Durham metro areas potentially supporting 12 to 15 locations. We have been operating our affiliate brand, The Melting Pot, in Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham for many years and we have a strong familiarity and history with these markets.
FC: What are you looking for in a prospective franchisee?
DS: We look for single and multi-unit operators with foodservice and/or restaurant experience who possess the resources and ability to open the first unit within 12 months and each additional unit at a maximum of 12-month intervals. Franchisee candidates should have a minimum net worth of $500,000 and liquid assets of at least $200,000 per unit. Prospective franchisees should also have a passion for and commitment to exceptional customer service.
FC: What is the estimated initial investment to open a Burger 21 restaurant?
DS: Depending on the real estate site selected, franchisees can expect the total cost of investment for one restaurant to be approximately $525,495 – $750,995. The initial franchise fee is $40,000; however, a 10 percent discount is applied to all franchises sold by Dec. 21, 2012. Reduced franchise fees apply for Area Development Agreements of four or more units.
FC: What advice can you offer prospective franchisees when it comes to financing their Burger 21 restaurant?
DS: Burger 21 has partnered with BoeFly, a network of over 2,000 lenders, to assist franchisees in securing financing. BoeFly utilizes technology to match borrowers with lenders based on a variety of criteria and it has revolutionized how lending deals get done. Additionally, we have lending relationships with numerous lenders that we leverage whenever possible.
FC: Is there anything else you wish to share about Burger 21?
DS: Combining a vast selection of innovative chef-created recipes and a contemporary-style diner atmosphere with fast, high-touch service, Burger 21’s creations appeal to all audiences and ages, resulting in strong guest traffic during the lunch and dinner day parts.