In an effort to boost customer frequency, Smashburger has expanded its menu of chicken sandwiches and salads and begun to offer fried chicken breast fillets as an alternative to grilled breasts in such products, officials said Monday.
The Denver-based 77-unit chain yesterday unveiled three new chicken sandwiches and four new chicken salads, essentially doubling the offerings in those two categories.
In addition, the fast-casual chain now offers smaller portion salads priced at $4.99 as well as its regular $6.99 salads.
Smashburger founder Tom Ryan said the brand also reformatted its menu to display chicken and burger items separately and make it more apparent that guests can customize their chicken sandwiches with an assortment of buns, cheeses, sauces and toppings. Guests also can order any specialty burger recipe, such as the Mushroom Swiss, and substitute a chicken breast for about $1 more than they would pay for the quarter-pound beef version.
Ryan said Smashburger’s new panko crumb coated and fried chicken breast is being substituted for grilled chicken in about one-third of the orders for chicken specialties.
“The Smashburger concept was born with burgers, chicken and salads,” he said. “Our customers have told us that they love what we have done with burgers and want to see the same innovation and magic in our chicken and salad menu. These expanded offerings will give our customers more reasons to visit Smashburger more often.”
Expanding the menu also helps Smashburger further differentiate itself from burger-only regional favorites, such as In-N-Out Burger of Irvine, Calif., and rapidly growing, multi-region sandwich players like Five Guys Burgers and Fries of Lorton, Va., which does not offer chicken sandwiches or salads.
New Smashburger menu additions are:
• BBQ Ranch Smashchicken topped with applewood-smoked bacon, haystack onions, lettuce, tomato, barbecue sauce and ranch dressing on an egg bun.
• Avocado Club Smashchicken topped with fresh avocado, bacon, lettuce, tomato, ranch dressing and mayo on a multi-grained bun.
• Buffalo Smashchicken featuring Frank’s Buffalo Sauce, crumbled blue cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo on an egg bun.
• Honey Mustard Chicken Smashsalad of mixed greens with strips of crispy or grilled chicken, bacon, cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, red onion and honey mustard dressing.
• Chicken Caesar Smashsalad of mixed greens topped with strips of crispy or grilled chicken, Parmesan cheese, diced tomatoes and croutons with Parmesan Caesar dressing.
• Harvest Chicken Smashsalad of mixed greens, strips of crispy or grilled chicken, marinated balsamic tomatoes, raisins, cranberries, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, blue cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.
• BBQ Chicken Ranch Smashsalad of mixed greens, strips of crispy or grilled chicken, bacon, diced tomatoes, haystack onions, cheddar cheese and buttermilk ranch dressing and barbecue sauce.
Smashburger’s original “Classic Smashchicken” sandwich with red onion, pickles, lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on multi-grain bun, and the new Buffalo Smashchicken sandwich both sell for from $5.49 to $5.99, depending on the market. The other new and previously offered chicken sandwiches sell for $1 more.
Earlier this year, Smashburger added systemwide one-time regional favorite side dishes, such as sweet potato fries and fried pickles.
Ryan said the chain collected guest “dialogue and input” about menu changes in June and worked from the middle of that month and into July developing new products and initiating tests — results of which “were great.” The decision to expand the menu systemwide was made by mid August, he added.
The new menu items were, for the most part, created from ingredients already used in Smashburger restaurants augmented by a few easily added items, Ryan explained. He said the use of familiar ingredients, and the use of similar combinations of ingredients in multiple items — such as in the BBQ Ranch sandwich and salad — made it easier for store crews to serve up new foods while remaining focused on speed of service and order accuracy.
Overall, Ryan said, the menu expansion resulted in a “proliferation of flavors for our customers” that is “fairly simple to manage from an operational point of view.” Smashburger, which is owned by Consumer Capital Partners, has 32 company owned and 45 franchised units. The chain expects to have 100 locations open by year’s end.
Ryan said Smashburger’s relatively small base of same stores have had flat sales, year to date, compared with the comparable 2009 period. But he noted that new units are realizing stronger initial sales than their predecessors, which he said most likely is the result of improving site selection and marketing practices.
Smashburger’s per-person average is $8 when kids meals are factored in, Ryan said, and $9 when they are excluded. Kids meals represent 11 percent to 13 percent of sales.
Contact Alan J. Liddle at [email protected].