The beef’s everywhere: New Five Guys on Clematis adds to a local burger boom
The all-American taste of burgers meets the all-American style of business, capitalism.
Diners’ gastronomical need for a tasty burger is getting easier to quench in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, as premium burger chains mushroom across the retail landscape.
This week, the eighth Five Guys restaurant in the area opened on Clematis Street, adding to the Tracys’ domination – father Tom Tracy and sons Ryan, Matt and Pat control the local market – of this food niche.
“What’s more American than burgers and fries?” Matt Tracy said Monday, moments after the new site opened. “We kind of do it the old-fashioned way: fresh, like you make in your backyard.”
But South Florida-based BurgerFi and CG Burgers also are increasing the field here and regionally. And chains such as Burger 21 and Highway 55 Burgers are moving in.
“Our business plan is to convince everyone in America they should be eating natural burgers,” BurgerFi Operations Director Steven Lieber said.
Burger chains, both the fast-food and fast-casual brands such as Five Guys, generate $67 billion in sales each year, though the premium burger segment represents less than 4 percent of sales, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of research firm Technomic. However, that higher-quality, higher-priced segment is growing at 15 percent a year, compared with 3 percent growth expected this year from the traditional chains such as McDonald’s, said the food industry consultant.
Better-burger chains, so named because of their attention to quality ingredients, are the hot trend for several reasons, said Northwood University professor Janice Scarinci, an expert in restaurants and hotels.
The premium meats and fresh veggies – some chains even feature organic and hormone-free ingredients – appeal to families’ focus on health. Also, the convenience helps working parents and the price is lower than at full-service restaurants, she said.
Lieber, whose BurgerFi chain has corporate offices in North Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, said he has three stores now but should have 20 by year’s end. One is open in Delray Beach on South Ocean Boulevard near Atlantic Avenue. Boynton Beach likely is the next destination for a restaurant in Palm Beach County, Lieber said, and the goal is 100 restaurants nationally by 2014.
CG Burgers, an offshoot of Carmine Giardini’s culinary empire that includes a pizza joint and gourmet market in Palm Beach Gardens, has five locations with a sixth opening next week in Coral Gables. The chain is focused on Florida at this point, CG Burgers Holdings President Ron Magruder said, and has locations in Jupiter and Palm Beach Gardens but no more immediately planned in Palm Beach County.
With a tilt toward the gourmet, with meats such as bison offered, Magruder said the chain has no plans to “conquer the world” but expects to do well even in a crowded market.
“I think burgers have been competitive for as long as I’ve been alive,” Magruder said, laughing.
And the South Florida market appears to be good for business. While some nationally known chains such as Shake Shack have only one token Florida spot, Miami Beach, and Smashburger has stayed to the south for its Florida foray so far, other expanding chains are eyeing Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast.
Burger 21, a Tampa-based chain founded by the owners of the Melting Pot, held a lunch for potential franchisees last week in Aventura and Boca Raton. Franchise Development Vice President Dan Stone said he hopes to announce the first South Florida location in a couple of months. Whether it is in Palm Beach County depends on whose money comes through first.
“While we are new to the burger business, we are not new to the restaurant business or franchising,” Stone said.
Lonnie Mister, who has the Florida master franchise license for Highway 55 Burgers out of North Carolina, is building his flagship location on the Treasure Coast and aims to have a restaurant in Palm Beach County by the end of the year.
“If you go into the hamburger business, there’s really an array of operations that offer an excellent product,” Mister said. Highway 55 will distinguish itself with superior food, better customer service and prices about a third less than the rest of the premium burger market, he said.