10 Things You Didn’t Know About Smashburger

This upstart burger chain is on a path to dominance

Smashburger was founded in Denver in 2007.

If you’ve ever dined at Smashburger, the Denver-based burger chain with more than 350 locations worldwide, you’ve probably noticed that it’s unlike any other chain out there. But did you know that its founder also happens to be one of the most legendary figures in fast food history? We’re unloading 10 facts you most likely didn’t know about this fast-growing chain.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Smashburger (Slideshow)

Smashburger was founded in 2007 by Tom Ryan, who, as an executive with Pizza Hut in the 1980s, brought some of its most iconic products ever to the marketplace, and in the late ‘90s joined McDonald’s as Worldwide Chief Concept Officer, where he spearheaded some of its most iconic products ever. He then took his talents to Quiznos, where he rolled out even more iconic offerings (more on all of these later). That gave Ryan and his business partner, Rick Schaden, an idea: Based on the knowledge they’d gained over the years, they were confident that they could revolutionize the fast food burger scene.

“In the mid-2000s, people were becoming increasingly dispassionate about burgers, so we decided to create a juicy and delicious burger and wrap it around a concept,” Tom told me when reached by phone. “We started with a blank page, and the beauty of my experience in the industry was that I was able to observe best practices and fatal flaws along the way. We could stop at every intersection and differentiate and be relevant.”

Ryan recognized that “while there will always be a market for people looking for speed and low price, they don’t want it at the expense of something they can crave and be passionate about.” So Ryan and Schaden set out to create just that. “The modern customer is looking for food with a story, and the ability to connect with what and where they’re eating,” he added.


The first Smashburger opened in Denver, and since then it’s been picking up a lot of steam. Burgers made via their signature “smashing” technique, chicken sandwiches, salads, fries, shakes, and sides like fried pickles and veggie frites are available, and many locations also serve beer. Its success captured the attention of Philippines-based Jollibee last year, who acquired a 40-percent stake in the company, all but guaranteeing that we’ll be seeing a lot more locations opening soon. Read on for 10 things you didn’t know about Smashburger.