The Smashburger Restaurant With A Bar

Smashburger is one of those up-and-coming chains worth watching. It certainly seems to have the potential to make it big someday. The Smashburger brand was created in 2007, and its goal has always been to build a better burger and capitalize upon the appeal of fast, casual dining. Its titular technique of smashing fresh burgers in view of its customers is a big part of that appeal. The business also has a somewhat diversified menu, offering consumers chicken sandwiches, turkey burgers, and salads, as well as side items like Brussels sprouts and desserts like Häagen-Dazs ice cream shakes. All of this works to make Smashburger seem a bit more elevated than your standard fast food burger joint.

That approach has paid off to an extent. According to YouGov America, 60% of Americans have heard of Smashburger while only 32% like it, and another 22% are neutral. This means only 6% of Americans dislike the chain, and as such, it's the 119th most popular dining brand — not bad for a brand that launched somewhat recently. Millennials in particular seem to like the chain, with Gen X and the Baby Boomers not far behind. Still, there is room for future growth.

Smashburger's got bars

One way Smashburger is attempting to grow is by introducing bars to its stores. Per QSR Magazine, in March of 2022, the chain debuted its first full, official bar at one of its sites in Denver. There, customers can find ice-cold beers, both on draft and in cans, as well as signature cocktails like the Blackberry Smash, a Coconut Mule, the Smash Rum Punch, and Smoke & Spice Margarita, among others. The venture kicked off with a happy hour grand opening celebration that let diners get a draft beer for $10 alongside their classic burger. Swag was also available.

Smashburger president Carl Bachmann explained that the new concept "sets itself apart from our traditional locations with an elevated dining experience and we are thrilled to bring our first full bar restaurant to our hometown in Denver." Ideally, the company hopes to provide patrons with more refreshments as they're enjoying their meals. According to Business Insider, Bachmann believes people are looking for heightened quality in their fast-casual dining experiences and that there's a "pent-up demand" for eating in after years of pandemic quarantining and distancing. Alcohol seemed like a good way to entice those folks. "People have been locked down or fearful to go out and it's almost surreal to walk into a Smashburger and be able to sit down with your family and have a great meal," Bachmann claims. Plans have been made to expand this model beyond Denver to trendy markets like New York City.

Staying fresh

Bars are just one way Smashburger is remaining relevant. Business Insider also reports that the chain is using food lockers and drive-thru lanes to lure in customers who prefer grab-and-go meals; roughly 66% of all Smashburger orders are consumed away from their point of origin. The company definitely wants some of its diners to come in to eat and drink, but it's certainly not going to turn away those who have other ideas.

This sort of flexibility helped Smashburger endure the worst of the pandemic. Restaurant Business documents how the company never let Covid close them down, and this fostered employee retention, something vital during a time of labor shortages. Smashburger also tried to develop and promote workers from within, while also hiring staff well in advance of store openings so they could train them thoroughly.

Additionally, Smashburger has put a focus on digital menus, releasing a new app and redesigning its website back in 2020. Its logo has been revamped, as well, to appear more modern. Jumping on recent trends like meal kits and chicken sandwiches helps Smashburger get hip, too. Vegetarian, vegan, and dairy-free options don't hurt, either. Such strategies are paying off. Nation's Restaurant News notes Smashburger is opening 20 new stores on average each year. At this rate, Smashburger bars might soon feel less like a novelty and more like a staple of fast-casual dining culture.