The latest local entry into the field of fast casual burger spots -- BurgerFi -- opens today in Latham.
"I thought it was a great concept," Angelo Mazzone said Tuesday during a media preview. The local hospitality group king is one of the backers of the local franchise, along with the Lia family (of auto group fame). "Everything is 100 percent fresh. We don't even have a freezer here. So things come in fresh. The produce is all fresh. We make our own fresh onion rings. We make french fries from potatoes that we cut ourselves. The beef is 100 percent natural, no preservatives, no antibiotics, nothing like that."
BurgerFi already has more than 70 locations around the country. And the local franchise backers have plans for more locations both here in the Capital Region and other parts of upstate.
Here a few pics from the Latham location, along with a few bits about the burger boom.
They're above in large format -- click or scroll all the way up.
So... what's with all the burger places?
BurgerFi joins a quickly growing local field of fast casual burger spots. Five Guys, of course, has been on the scene for years. More recently, Smashburger (Wolf Road, Saratoga) and Burger21 (Latham) have opened. Another entrant, Elevation Burger, is planned for the strip mall anchored by the Fresh Market in Latham. And there are local offerings in this vein, too, such as Juicy Burgers (Guilderland, Milton) and the soon-to-open Crave in Albany.
These places are trying to carve out a niche in the space that Chipotle has so effectively planted itself -- a position somewhere between fast food and traditional casual table-service restaurants. It's a space that appears to be growing as fast food chains like McDonald's sag, and casual restaurants like Chili's and Applebees scuffle. And given Chipotle's success, the idea of becoming the "Chipotle of burgers" probably sounds pretty good. [Eater] [NRN]
Like Chipotle, these new burger chains have embraced a range of elements -- a focus on how ingredients are sourced, modern decor, a nod to sustainability -- in an effort to appeal to people looking for alternatives (and maybe willing to spend a few bucks more). Among those elements in BurgerFi's case: the food is cooked to order and brought out to the tables, the beef is grassfed, and the decor makes use of multiple recycled items.
On this week's quick first impression, BurgerFi reminded us most of another chain that's not (yet) here: Shake Shack -- both in menu, decor, and approach.
Shake Shack's roots are interesting in that it started out as sort of an experiment by the Union Square Hospitality Group, which operates a string of very well-regarded fine dining spots in New York City. After it became an unexpected hit, the light went on for Union Square and its famous CEO, restaurateur Danny Meyer: A burger spot is a whole lot easier to expand at multiple locations than a fine dining restaurant. Shake Shack now has locations around the world, and its stock is up 250 percent since an IPO this past January.
Some of those same points about the ability to scale the concept surfaced in our quick conversation with Angelo Mazzone about BurgerFi on Tuesday.
"This is really easy to reproduce, as opposed to what else I do. It's really, really hard to reproduce what we do [at other Mazzone restaurants] because it's all about the people and how they're cooking. This is all basic stuff. You can train anyone how to do it," Mazzone said, adding with a laugh. "There's 20 things on the menu [at BurgerFi]. We have 20 different things in a sauce [at our other restaurants]. So it's easier. And the food is really good."
There's another BurgerFi planned to open on Broadway in Saratoga Springs in the first or second quarter of 2016. And third location -- somewhere on Western Ave near UAlbany (a rep said they couldn't be specific just yet) -- is planned for mid 2016.
About the food: Both
860 New Loudon Road
Latham, NY 12110
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