Smashburger bets it can squash rivals

By Paolo Lucchesi
Published 4:38 pm, Wednesday, March 6, 2013

One of America’s most celebrated young startups is coming to the Bay Area, although it has nothing to do with Silicon Valley, the tech world or even light shows on a bridge.

Instead, the company has made its name by squashing beef.

Smashburger, proclaimed by Forbes as America’s Most Promising Company in 2011, is ready to invade the Bay Area. With a patented tool that smashes a meatball into a patty while on the grill, the burger chain has already signed five local leases.

“It’s one of our growth markets,” says CEO Dave Prokupek.

The first Smashburger is slated for Mill Valley (745 E. Blithedale Ave.) next to Whole Foods. The opening is set for May, followed by a San Francisco sibling (2300 16th St.) a few months later. Before the end of the year, Prokupek hopes to open another in Novato (7370 Redwood Blvd.), two in San Jose, plus five to seven more elsewhere in the Bay Area in 2014.

That sort of aggressive expansion is the Smashburger way. With 200-plus locations opened in the past six years, it’s one of the fastest starts ever for a restaurant company. For context, it’s about the same number that In-N-Out has opened in 65 years.