Better burger brands race to $1 billion

Better burger brands race to $1 billion

In the increasingly crowded world of fast-casual burger concepts, industry pundits expect the sector's first billion-dollar player to soon emerge.

Many see Five Guys Burgers and Fries leading the pack.

The Lorton, Va.-based chain reported $453 million in sales in 2009, an increase of 50 percent over the previous year, largely because of its rapid pace of growth. During 2009, Five Guys jumped from 360 to 547 units, a 52-percent increase at a time when most companies put growth on hold.

In March, Chicago-based market research firm Technomic Inc. placed Five Guys at the top of the list of 10 fastest growing chains in 2009, among those with sales over $200 million.

Aspecial report in the April 5 issue of Nation’s Restaurant News explores the just-great-burgers-and-fries focus of Five Guys and other brands racing to claim market share leadership in the fast-casual “better burger” foot race. Click here to purchase the report on RetailNet.

Observers also are keeping their eyes on Denver-based Smashburger, Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Habit Burger Grill, Arlington, Va.-based Elevation Burger, and numerous two- or three-unit regional players that hope to stake their claim before the larger chains enter their markets.

Despite the explosion of better-burger brands over the past few years, researchers say there's plenty of room in the fast-casual market to grow.

"There's a lot more opportunity for better burgers to grab market share," said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic. "We'll continue to see a high level of growth over the next two or three years."

Regardless of who wins the billion-dollar-brand title, the downfall-defying success of such burger operators reflects the ongoing love affair Americans have with the humble hamburger sandwich.

“There’s nothing on the horizon that will change America’s love for burgers,” said David Prokupek, chairman and chief executive of Smashburger. “It’s America’s favorite food.”

EARLIER BURGER COVERAGE:

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].

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