Although burger restaurants are very common and numerous in the U.S., there is plenty of room to put your own stamp on the concept. If you're looking to open a burger joint, you can be as conventional or creative as you'd like as long as you have a sound business model and a solid strategy for reaching your target market.
Types of Burger Restaurants
- Fast food. There's a reason that chains like McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's are so successful: There's a strong demand for inexpensive burgers served quickly. There's also plenty of competition, so define your strengths and selling points effectively.
- Fast and casual. A fast and casual eatery is a step up from a fast-food burger joint, although you still order your food at the counter rather than enjoying table service. Their ambiance tends to be more appealing than the fast-food standard, and the food includes more options — such as build-your-own-burger formats —with higher-quality ingredients.
- Upscale. Burger restaurants can be upscale if you create a menu and environment that customers feel is worth the added expense.
- Franchise. Both fast-food burger joints such as McDonald's and upscale burger restaurants such as Wayback Burgers are available as franchising opportunities, allowing you to skip the guesswork of learning through trial and error.
Planning a Burger Joint Menu
A burger joint menu should naturally be centered around burgers, although fries and drinks are also vitally important elements. Your menu can include choices of meats such as classic beef, lamb, ground turkey and even vegetarian options. Select a head chef carefully who has experience and an opinion you trust to help you form your menu.
Choose your options based on the target market you are trying to reach and what they would like. For example, if you are in a health- and environmentally-conscious area with a lot of young people, you may want to consider opening an all-vegan burger restaurant. If you are located on a highway with a lot of cross-state traffic, you may want to choose to go in the direction of classic burger options that are prepared quickly, but to order.
Put thought and care into the sides because many customers take these as seriously as the burgers. Fries are essential and should be served fresh and crispy. You can also offer riffs on mainstream options, such as poutine or sweet potato fries. Offer additional sides like slaw and potato salad and serve traditional burger joint drinks like sodas and milkshakes along with more unusual options if you choose.
Equipment Needed to Open a Burger Joint
Your burger joint will certainly require a grill and a fryer along with a ventilation system with built-in fire suppression. Depending on your concept and your audience, it may be a good idea to situate your grill where customers can see it to create demand through visual, olfactory and even auditory stimuli if customers can hear the meat sizzling. You should also have a refrigerated condiment station that allows you to easily access all of the available toppings.
Work with local health department requirements and plan your burger joint layout for optimum food safety. Keep your condiment station with its ready-to-eat ingredients away from your grill area, which will have raw meat. Make sure your refrigeration is adequate to keep potentially hazardous ingredients chilled to health department standards and keep your dishwasher maintained effectively enough for it to sanitize with heat and chemicals.
Burger Joint Marketing
The marketing strategy for your burger restaurant can build on the broad sentimental appeal of the classic meal you're serving while emphasizing the features that make your operation unique. Understand your operation's particular appeal and communicate it in every aspect of your marketing, from the font you use to the colors you incorporate.
The price you charge for your food should be part of your marketing message as well. An inexpensive but appealing menu will draw families, students and people on a budget. High-end burgers will appeal to connoisseurs and customers entertaining guests whom they are looking to impress. Know your selling points and your target market and create an accessible and compelling message.
Devra Gartenstein founded her first food business in 1987. In 2013 she transformed her most recent venture, a farmers market concession and catering company, into a worker-owned cooperative. She does one-on-one mentoring and consulting focused on entrepreneurship and practical business skills.