CaliBurger Comes To Vancouver, And More BC Stores Are Planned
CaliBurger just opened its first BC location, on Thurlow Street, and owner Reyaz Kassamali tells us there’ve been lines out the door all day, every day, since the launch. “It’s been crazy, and we love it.”
Here’s Reyaz cutting ribbon on opening day, June 3. He credits CaliBurger's choice location, between Robson and Haro, with its early success. “Lots of foot traffic and good visibility—and we ponied up for the rent here because we knew that'd be the case.” Reyaz, founder of K Franchise Systems, grew up in Vancouver before moving away for university, training as a lawyer and spending most of his career in investment banking. He fondly recalls cruising Robson at night as a kid. “So I knew I wanted to put the first CaliBurger location downtown, and ideally close to Robson.”
The 2,243 SF store, at 830 Thurlow (owned by PCI Group, which remodelled the building’s exterior), fills a void. “There are no quick-service restaurants in the area," Reyaz says. "So we saw a white space in the market for this concept.” Why are people lining up? Partly for the food itself: all ingredients are fresh. And prices are reasonable. A double cheeseburger is $6.99, which puts CaliBurger in mid-market range, between fast food and higher-end burger joints like Five Guys. But Reyaz says the tech-driven in-store experience is what truly sets CaliBurger apart.
Soon CaliBurger will launch a mobile app for online orders that’ll be ready right as the customer arrives (based on GPS location). Tables have wireless chargers, and a large video wall enables social gaming among burger-munchers (including a custom-built Minecraft server). The first Canadian CaliBurger launched in Waterloo, ON, last month. The maiden store opened in Shanghai in 2012, and the brand has since expanded to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines, Kuwait, Bahrain, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Sweden, plus Washington, DC, and Pasadena.
Reyaz first invested in CaliBurger several years ago while living in LA. He bought franchise master rights for BC, Oregon and Washington state, and opened the Seattle location—North America's first—last October. The Vancouver and Seattle corporate stores are flagships “off the back of which to franchise." There'll be a second Washington store soon (Oregon comes later), and with CBRE sourcing locations, Reyaz has deals with franchisees for additional BC stores. The goal is 30 or more within a decade. “But we’re not going to open 10 tomorrow. We're picking our partners carefully.”