Smashburger chairman adds CEO duties

DENVER Smashburger has expanded chairman David Prokupek’s role to include chief executive duties and added three outside directors to its board for greater functional expertise, the fast-casual chain said.

New to the board of Denver-based Smashburger are:

  • Mike Fries, president and chief executive of Liberty Global, a major cable TV provider claiming 27 million subscribers.
  • Steve Schiffman, president and general manager of the Networks of National Geographic, which include the National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo Wild.
  • Brian Rainey, president of Epsilon Targeting, a business and marketing database and services firm, who formerly was director of marketing for The Sharper Image, among other roles.

Prokupek said the expanded board’s “stewardship will help guide Smashburger through a period of unprecedented growth and establish it as one of America’s great new brands.”

“We thought it was important to add outsiders to the board, as it was mostly current investors and inside management,” he said. During the selection process, he said, “we were really focused on adding some additional strengths, some board members with functional expertise.”

“Steve and Brian are on the brand committee working with our marketing folks and [founder and chief concept officer] Tom Ryan,” Prokupek said. He added that Mike Fries is on the compensation and audit committees and noted that the new board member “is a really great strategic thinker, having built things from scratch, grown things globally and been in the public [market] environment.”

The new board members have invested in the company as well as agreed to provide their services, Prokupek said.

Speaking about his new CEO title, Prokupek said that it was really a matter of “beefing things up,” as the company has doubled in size annually in recent years. Smashburger previously had no chief executive.

“As we are growing, the running of the restaurants every day is something president Scott Crane is doing a great job at,” Prokupek said. However, he said, Smashburger has reached the size where it takes more than one person to pay attention to such things as “development abroad, legal matters, marketing and the financial side, with raising capital and banking relationships."

Prokupek said Smashburger was pleased with the chain's performance so far this year.

“We’ve opened additional stores in east Texas that are setting records," he said. "We opened our first East Coast store [in New Jersey] in mid-December and it’s knocking them dead, so we’re pleased how it [the concept] is traveling.".

In addition to his role as Smashburger chairmen and CEO, Prokupek serves as managing partner and chief investment officer at Consumer Capital Partners, a private investment firm focusing on consumer brands and services and Smashburger’s primary investor.

Smashburger has grown from a single unit in June of 2007 to 55 units, with a 56th restaurant slated to open Tuesday. Since the second half of 2009, the chain has almost tripled its number of locations and opened at a pace of about one new store a week on its way to a stated goal of having 100 restaurants in operation by year’s end. Smashburger has an average check of $7.95 and average unit volumes of about $1.3 million.

Contact Alan J. Liddle at [email protected] [3].