First Look: Smashburger opens 1st Central Ohio restaurant in Gahanna

by Dan Eaton

Business First

Date: Wednesday, February 20, 2013, 12:31pm EST

The doors to Central Ohio’s first Smashburger have opened, with more on the way for the Denver-based burger chain.

Smashburger opened at the Commons at Clark Hall in Gahanna on Wednesday with plans for two more in the coming months, franchisee Drew Hansen said. He told me he’s wrapping a deal for a Smashburger in Westerville, which could open as soon as this fall, and he is near a lease for another along Hilliard-Rome Road, which could debut in early 2014. Hansen has committed to six Smashburgers in his territory covering the northern part of Franklin County and Delaware County.

To those familiar with the chain of more than 200 restaurants, the rapid growth isn’t a surprising. It was founded in 2007 by Tom Ryan, a veteran of McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE:MCD) and Yum Brands Inc. (NYSE:YUM). The Smashburger menu includes the burgers that similar chains boast. Hansen said the company – like Dublin-based Wendy’s Co. (NYSE:WEN) – uses fresh beef that is smashed onto the grill with a device that flattens the burgers and gives them a quick sear.

One Smashburger hallmark is a signature burger in each market. The nine restaurants in Ohio all serve the Buckeye, which includes fried banana pepper rings and haystack onions. Hansen said the market signature burgers typically are the top seller, followed by the company’s core classic burger. Burgers are prices at $4.99 to $6.99.

Smashburger entered Ohio through Dayton in 2009 and expanded to Cincinnati.

The Commons at Clark Hall offered an attractive starting point with its neighborhood makeup and steady street traffic, Hansen said. It has nearby audiences from neighboring Gahanna Lincoln High School and a Columbus State Community College branch. The 2,250-square-foot restaurant seats 72 inside and 20 on the patio.

Smashburger arrives at a time when the so-called better burger niche in Columbus has thinned after Graffiti Burger closed one of its three restaurants last week. Five Guys Burgers and Fries remains the biggest player in Central Ohio with 11 eateries.