For the sixth year, BurgerBusiness.com offers a list of expanding burger concepts to watch in the year ahead. By and large, these are small chains and that’s the idea: we’re well aware of such fast-growing, 20-plus-store chains as Smashburger, BurgerFi and Burger 21. These are concepts that may just be moving away from their original market or that are building a bigger presence there. I’ve tried to include concepts from diverse parts of the country.
Obviously many others could be on this as well and Burger Business will keep n eye on them as well. Before you say that I should have included your favorite chain, check the past years’ list to see if it was previously included.
Bernie’s Burger Bus
Justin Turner parked the bus in 2014 and opened his first bricks-and-mortar burger joint in Bellaire, Texas. A second soon followed in Katy, Texas, and a third is planned for 2016 in Houston Heights.
Good Stuff Eatery
Spike Mendelsohn’s Capitol Hill burger joint has fed the president and spread to Georgetown; Arlington, Va., and Chicago. Now it’s preparing to open in London’s Leicester Square as the start of a UK rollout, taking on Shake Shack and Five Guys there.
Bru Burger Bar
Definitely one to keep an eye on. The Indianapolis concept has spread to Carmel, Ind., and Lexington, Ky. On Dec. 7 it opened in Cincinnati and is scouting possible locations in Louisville; Columbus, Ohio, and Nashville.
Mike Roberts opened the first Burger Daddy in Grimes, Iowa, in July and already has a second opening in January, this one in Boone, Iowa. Next up? Ames, Iowa. After that, who knows as Roberts gears up a franchising program.
Australian celebrity chef Neil Perry has opened two Sydney locations of his fast-casual Burger Project concept in the past year. He’ll open the first of a projected locations in Melbourne in March, as well as a third in Sydney.
Two Nashville locations are open; a third in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., is almost ready. There are more than a dozen beer taps and more than a dozen signature burgers, including The 96 Burger that finished in the top 5 at the 2014 World Food Championship.
An interesting history: founded in Santa Monica, Calif., but opened and operated in Asia, until October when it came back to the U.S. to open in Seattle. Plans call for the next openings in Waterloo, Ontario; Vancouver, B.C. and Baltimore, Md., in the next few months. 2016 will also add additional Middle East and Asian locations. CaliBurger was on the 2014 Watch list when it said it would open in Southern California. False alarm. But now it’s taking hold for real.
Crave Real Burger
Jeff and Jeryn Richard opened the first Crave in Castle Rock, Colo., in 2010. Now there are units in Colorado Springs, Highlands Ranch and, as of this fall, in Denver’s trendy LoDo (lower downtown) neighborhood. The menu has 20 burger choices, including a Nutty Professor with peanut butter, bacon, jalapeňos and onion.
Hat Creek Burger Company
After several years as one of Austin’s favorite food trucks, the first Hat Creek opened in 2011. Now there are four, including a recently opened unit in Round Rock, Texas. More Austin-area locations are planned.
Hero Certified Burgers
Hero Certified Burgers has been a common sight in Toronto for years but now it has opened its first U.S. location in Elmwood, N.Y., Joining Big Smoke, Union Burger and other Canadian chains in the U.S. Hero is a build-your-own burger concept with Wild Alaskan Salmon Fillet as one of the protein choices. Sides include tempura zucchini and, of course, poutine.
Chicago’s heavy-metal-themed burger joint opened in 2005 and spawned Kuma’s Too in 2013. This summer it added a suburban location and ventured outside Chicago to open in Indianapolis. Where next? The December Burger of the Month is the Gorgoroth: choice of protein topped with grilled green peppers, Bolognese sauce, beer-battered pizza puff sticks, chipotle sauce, Parmesan and oregano on a pretzel bun.
Old Detroit Burger Bar
Viktor Palushaj has been quietly building a southern Michigan burger empire since 2012. He opened his Old Detroit Burger Bar in Troy and Farmington Hills, Mich., this year. Coming soon in the chain’s seventh location, in Clarkston, Mich. The I-75 Burger is a 2-pounder for $25.
Everything is mini except the ambition at this Miami concept. Slider choices include Bacon Cheeseburger, Meatball Parm, Chili Cheese Dog, Pulled Pork and more. Three more locations in Miami and at least one in Plantation, Fla., are in the works.
Can the official burger of the Boston Red Sox find fans in Washington, D.C.? With five Boston-area locations, including a Fenway Park stand, Tasty Burger is set soon to open a location on 8th Street NW the capital’s Shaw neighborhood. The chain just debuted its own Tasty Ale, in collaboration with Samuel Adams.
The Singapore-based concept knows the U.S. well enough to open its first unit here on Haight Street in San Francisco. Marketing chief Cynthia Ridell told LatestVeganNews.com it hopes to open “however many locations it takes to encourage and excite the world to choose a plant-based diet.” That could be a lot.
With two locations open in Atlanta, Erik Maier’s “Food You Can Feel Good About” local-and-healthy burger concept is headed for Nashville, although it now may not open until 2017. A second opened in Katy, Texas, and a third should open in mid-2016.