Smashburger Is Bringing A New Wave Of Fast-Casual To The UK
Milton Keynes got its first Smashburger last month at the Kingston Centre retail park, the first step to the burger-maker's ambitious UK expansion.
Smashburger UK Managing Director Tim Lowther tells us he plans to bring five more stores online in the next year in Brighton, Newcastle, Glasgow, Bath and Wednesbury. The company plans 35 more stores over the next few years.
Smashburger is the latest American import to bring fast-casual dining to England. Chipotle landed in the UK in May 2010 and quickly expanded throughout London, cornering the Mexican food market. Five Guys followed.
Tim says there is tremendous opportunity in taking a traditionally US product and making it suitable for the UK market; the market is better than it has ever been. Customer expectations have evolved. One example? In the UK, some people would think a “spicy burger” would be a burger with BBQ sauce on it. But customers in the US expect smoky chipotle and tangy jalapeños, perhaps set off with cool avocado (which just happens to describe Smashburger’s Spicy Baja Burger—now available in the UK!)
Another trend, Tim says, is improved service. Folks in the US have always liked having their food brought to them, but it is still relatively novel in the UK for a fast-casual restaurant, and is one thing that sets Smashburger apart from the competition.
Tim tells us the company uses a variety of real estate. The Bath location will be situated on the high street; in Newcastle, the burger joint will be tucked inside an indoor shopping centre. But in all of the stores, there are premium touches.
At the Milton Keynes location, there are hard seats downstairs for quick bites before heading back to the office. Upstairs, however, there are soft seats where you can linger over food and suds.
Customers are responding. Most days there is a queue out the door and around the corner. Some days Tim jumps the queue to chow down on his favorite burger: the Stilton Stack.