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When Dennis Saller’s daughter was 10 years old, she suggested to her father that he should invest in a Chick-fil-A franchise. Saller was too busy building his dental practice and ignored his daughter’s suggestion; and the Chick-fil-A that eventually opened in his area became one of the highest-grossing in the chain.
Now 27, Mary Alison Saller told her dad that he should invest in another up-and-coming food service franchise, Burger 21; and this time he wasn’t going to make the same mistake. He listened.
Saller, 62, is the first franchisee of a chain headquartered in Tampa, Fla., and on its way to becoming a leading brand across the country. Saller opened his unit in Orlando, Fla., in November 2012 and is already discovering that customers are crazy about the brand.
Launched by the owners of the Melting Pot Restaurants Inc., Burger 21 is a new fast-casual concept featuring 21 chef-inspired burger creations, hand-dipped signature shakes, and other menu items such as chicken tenders, hot dogs, and salads. There are six Burger 21 restaurants in Florida and immediate plans call for additional stores to open in New Jersey, Georgia, North Carolina, and Washington, D.C.
The chain differentiates itself from other burger purveyors by offering not only traditional beef patties, but also burgers made from chicken, turkey, seafood, and vegetables along with an array of signature sauces.
“Burger 21 offers so much more than what people refer to as the competition — Five Guys, BurgerFi, In-N-Out Burger,” Saller said. “The owners of the Melting Pot restaurants spent a year and a half looking at developing the menu.”
Saller spent 29 years building his dental practice in Melbourne, Fla., before taking his daughter’s advice and looking into the Burger 21 concept. It was the only franchise he was interested in once he had visited a store in Tampa and tasted the food.
“I just saw it as an unbelievable opportunity,” Saller said. “The trend in the restaurant business right now is the fast-casual gourmet.”
Plus, he said, the company’s research shows that women find the menu items particularly appealing and they tend to be the decision makers for a family’s food choices.
“If women love the food, you’re going to drive the family, so a very big decision maker for me was the menu and the atmosphere.”
Today, Mary Alison and her sister, Whitney Prieto, 31, are part of their father’s business, acting as managers of the store at the Mall at Millenia in Orlando. While the family had no prior restaurant experience before becoming franchise partners, Saller sees himself as an entrepreneur who built his own dental practice and his daughters have business experience in marketing and human resources.