Burgers are one of America’s favorite foods and eight years ago, Smashburger set out with one simple mission: to offer a better burger that consumers were longing for. “Consumers were saying there just was not a good place to get a burger anymore,” President and CEO Scott Crane explains. “We continue to be everyone’s favorite place to eat burgers.”

Smashburger’s burgers are always made-to-order and smashed and seared to perfection on the grill. “At Smashburger, we start by taking a ball of 100 percent fresh never frozen certified Angus beef and smash it for 10 seconds on a hot buttered grill,” Crane says. “This creates a sear on the bottom of the burger that locks in all the juices, creating a tremendous amount of caramelized flavor in a juicy burger you can taste in every bite. Some call the result ‘Meat Candy.’”

Now having established its one-of-a-kind burger that is “smashed fresh, served delicious,” the Denver-based company is implementing changes to its menu and infrastructure while expanding to meet consumer demands. “We strive to be the best better burger brand,” Crane adds. “In many markets we’ve won local awards for ‘best burger.’ In 2011, we were named by Forbes as America’s Most Promising Company and have been listed on Fast Casual’s Top Movers and Shakers for four consecutive years.”

Localized Menu

Smashburger is known for its burgers, but the fast-casual chain also offers a plethora of items, including grilled or crispy chicken sandwiches, meatless options like black bean veggie burger or entrée salad, broad dessert options made from Häagen-Dazs and local craft beers. “It’s more than just being a place for burgers; we feel that our wide variety of menu options allows consumers to take the whole family out for a bite, even though they might not feel like a burger,” Crane says. “While we believe we have a great burger, we also think it’s important to offer other menu items to appeal to consumers interested in pursuing a different diet or wanting to try new things.”

Smashburger offers a unique local burger in each market it operates, created with toppings and flavors that embody the local community. Smashburger currently offers 44 unique burgers across the country and sources local craft beer from chosen partners in the market. The Windy City Smashburger, for example, includes Gulden’s Spicy Mustard, lettuce, tomato, haystack onions and melted cheddar cheese atop a Smashburger between a pretzel bun. The Sin City Smashburger includes Smash Sauce™, haystack onions, Applewood-smoked bacon, grilled onions, a fried egg and American cheese on a Smashburger between an egg bun.

These two burgers are typically only available if you live in Chicago or Las Vegas. But due to popular demand, Smashburger is promoting one of its 44 regional burgers nationwide every six weeks. “We heard a lot of feedback from our fans on our website and social media that guests wanted to try a Sin City burger or a Windy City burger even though they don’t live in those markets, so we are giving consumers what they want,” Crane says. 

Smashburger has also broadened its children’s menu to include better-for-you alternatives such as grilled chicken strips, unsweetened applesauce and organic milk. 

“We are talking to our consumers,” Crane explains. “We want to know where they came from, why they came in, where else they would have gone and are finding ways we can communicate better and increase our quality standards.”

Expanding the Brand

Smashburger will open 65 restaurants this year, bringing its total to 360 locations, and plans to open about 80 more locations in 2016. The chain can be found in 54 different markets and is focused on filling out those areas. The company is in seven countries and developing restaurants in two more to not only dominate the industry nationwide, but also globally. 

In July, the company opened its first drive-thru location in Minneapolis for added convenience. The drive-thru is doing well and Crane expects the company to expand that offering to more locations next year. “It’s the next evolution of occasion relevance,” he explains. “Customers tell us they would come more if [the locations] were more convenient. Either we aren’t close enough to their house or once the family is loaded up in the car they don’t want to come in, sit down and corral everyone together. They told us they would wait four minutes in the drive-thru to get fresh food cooked to order.”

Since the fast-casual chain was founded in 2007, it has grown from 42 to 6,700 employees. “Ideally we are looking for people who want to grow their career path,” Crane notes. “Forty-seven percent of management has been promoted from within and that’s a strong number up from thirty percent last year. We are growing at an aggressive pace but are always thinking about our employees and programs we can implement to help them grow their career.” 

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