Thursday, July 27, 2023

[UPDATE] Smashburger Plots Surprising Comeback in Metro Atlanta

"Better burger" concept Smashburger plans to (re-) enter the Atlanta market.  The chain reportedly plans to open 15 to 20 locations in "the greater Atlanta region" over the next five years.  The Denver, Colorado-based company did not reveal where or when the first locations would open or if their latest attempt at the market would be corporate or franchise led.

Imitation publication What Now Atlanta was first to publish news of Smashburger's expansion, and while we seldom repeat their news, it was so full of errors and omissions, we felt it necessary to make an exception.  Given WNA's reliance on inexperienced out-of-state writers, local market knowledge is lacking.  

Contrary to WNA's report, Smashburger currently operates not 34, but about 160 restaurants spread across 34 states.  Additionally, despite not being mentioned in their report, Smashburger's reported entry into Atlanta is, as we called it, a re-entry, as the company has already been in the market multiple times, via at least two separate franchise groups, only to see all restaurants close.  

Their report also included several company quotes but none as cringeworthy as these:

"Some changes might be made to Smashburger’s menu, which according to the brand “remains a driving force of profitability.”  “This allows us to attract new customers to our locations while also retaining our loyal fans by offering fresh and exciting dining experiences that cater to evolving tastes and preferences, keeping them eager to explore new items while still indulging in their favorite classics.” 

Smashburger, which started in Denver in 2007, announced plans for a franchisee to open up to 50 restaurants across the Georgia beginning in 2010.  That number was soon scaled back to 28.  That original franchisee - Phil Wilkins and his Rising Star, Inc - would go on to open a total of five Smashburgers in metro Atlanta.  Wilkins shuttered his Sandy Springs unit in late 2015 and would in 2016 sell his remaining four units: Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Kennesaw and Buckhead - to Chirag Patel.  

For his part, Patel sold off the Alpharetta and Johns Creek units while opting to convert his Kennesaw outpost to Boru Ramen Noodle & Poke Bar (2017) and his Buckhead outpost to Cluck-N-Mooh (2020), both independent concepts he created.  Boru remains in business while Cluck-N-Mooh was sold in June to the owners of Talkin' Tacos, a new taco joint expected to open soon.   

A separate franchisee - Robison Peck Group LLC - owned by Eric Robison and Charlie Peck - signed a development deal in 2016 to open 15 Smashburger restaurants in Georgia over the following seven years.  The duo opened "next generation" drive-thru enabled units in Locust Grove (December 2016) and Stockbridge (September 2018) but both closed abruptly in May 2020.  

At the time of Smashburger's first Atlanta market entry in 2011, the chain was led by David Prokupek. In the years since, the brand has had at least four leaders with its most current President and CEO Jose “Pepot” Mi├▒ana Jr. having been appointed to the role this past June.  

The chain has also changed ownership since it first debuted in metro Atlanta.  In October 2015, the Philippines-based quick-serve operator Jollibee Foods Corporation announced that it had acquired a 40 per cent stake in Smashburger for $100 million. Jollibee, which operates nearly 6,000 restaurants worldwide but only 70 restaurants in America, increased its Smashburger ownership stake in February 2018 to 85 per cent of Smashburger in another $100 million deal.  The company  in December 2018 acquired the remaining 15 per cent stake.  

In 2021 the chain revealed a new logo, its second new logo since its original Atlanta debut.  

If Smashburger does re-enter the Atlanta market, they will face competitors big and small that were not nearly as significant when last they operated in Atlanta.  New York-based Shake Shack, which also features a "smashed" burger, entered Atlanta in late 2014 but has in recent years ramped up expansion with eight locations now spread across metro Atlanta.  The company is working on a ninth location in Johns Creek.  Locally owned Grindhouse Killer Burgers, which opened in 2009 preceding Shake Shack's Atlanta arrival and offers similar food, today operates six restaurants across metro Atlanta.  Both Shake Shack and Grindhouse operate restaurants at Harstfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.  

Are you excited for Smashburger's potential return?  What is your favorite burger joint?  What type of food or specific restaurant would you like to see enter or re-enter Atlanta?

Please share your thoughts below 

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Savage!

Anonymous said...

They will fail again. There is nothing special about their concept or food and there are just too many competitors in this market now.

Anonymous said...

Spot on commentary on WNA. Glad to see that rivalry hasn't slowed up in the past 10 years. I too read their piece and wondered if they forgot how Smashburger failed 2x already.

Anonymous said...

Please I hope Smashburger comes back. It was the best burger. I miss Smashburger so much

Anonymous said...

OMG! Smashburger, Shake Shack and Grindhouse are all overrated and expensive! We don't need more of the same! Bring in Jollibee and/or grow Bonchon. If it's going to be a hamburger chain then bring in Farmer Boys.

Anonymous said...

NFA Burger is the best burger out there. I sure wish he would move out of that Chevron station though and open an actual restaurant space. If you haven't tried it, head over to Dunwoody during their extremely limited operating hours and give it a try. Defintely not f%!!#@@ around.

Anonymous said...

I thought Smash Burger was good, but the Buckhead location was plagued with unengaged employees and restaurant was always dirty and this was years prior to covid. I agree there are too many of these “better burger” concepts and none of them are that special.

Anonymous said...

I thought Smashburger was a pretty darn good burger. The fries were excellent as well. It didn't hurt that they sold beer, too! The thing that kept me away was the location on that sketchy stretch of Sidney Marcus Blvd, which is getting worse day by day.

Anonymous said...

grow up.

Anonymous said...

God, what a fucking asshole you are to go off on WNA like that.

Anonymous said...

No, you grow up

Anonymous said...

Your blog imitates curbed.

Atlantan99 said...

@Anon RE: Curbed,

Interesting you'd say that as our website predates Curbed (Atlanta) and while Urbanize has launched in Atlanta since Curbed exited, it's editor Josh Green has more than once lifted stories we reported first w/o credit.

Just Sayin.

Thanks as always for your comments and readership.

Atlantan99 said...

@Anon RE: asshole.

While we very much appreciate your readership and feedback, please be mindful of your language. Commenting is a privilege, not a right.

Anonymous said...

We love you Eli! Thank you for all your hard work. I'm sure it is not easy to have a full time job and keep up with this blog. Somehow you start from scratch and fill it with great details. It's your blog baby so you do you! Others who don't like it ... Move on!

Alex said...

I gotta give Eli credit, it has to be hard to write about Atlanta's culinary scene when it really doesn't have much of a culinary scene compared to other major cities.

CloseOTP said...

@Alex - Interesting you would say Atlanta doesn't have much of a culinary scene as it's becoming one of the few cities with a Michelin guide after NYC, DC, Chicago, CA cities, Florida Cities, and CO cities. So before cities like Boston, Nola, any TX city...

Alex said...

I lived in New England for over 25 years and the Boston food scene is far and away superior to Atlanta's. Plus, Boston is a far more culturally and historically diverse city than Atlanta.

Anonymous said...

Less thugs too

Anonymous said...

Because you’re scared.

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