Smashburger Continues its March for World Hamburger Domination

By: Jason Sheehan; Westword

It’s been a smashing week for Smashburger. The Denver-based chain of fast-casual burger restaurants has suddenly exploded, with plenty of ink documenting how it’s gone big-time. First, Nation’s Restaurant News tapped the operation as one of its “Hot Concepts” for 2009 — a very big deal in the highly competitive QSR (Quick-Service Restaurant) community, and more or less tantamount to gilding the name with gold from a franchise-and-investment standpoint. Then came last week’s announcement that thirty new locations would be opening in and around Dallas, since the company had inked a franchise deal with two Dallas Cowboys, Leonard Davis and Marc Colombo. That was followed by another announcement, that an eleven-store agreement had been made to bring Smashburger to Chicago — news that drove that burger-mad city into spasms of joy.

You know who doesn’t call me very often? Other reporters. That’s because when a reporter is working — looking for quotes, maybe even actual facts — he wants a clear, straightforward and level-headed recitation of information. What he doesn’t want is some over-excited weirdo cursing and chain-smoking and talking about burger restaurants in relation to Leviticus (which was exactly how I told Smashburger’s story back in October ’07, in my review a few months after the first store opened at 1120 South Colorado Boulevard). And yet, last week I took calls from no fewer than three reporters researching Smashburger — which just goes to show how desperate these poor sons-of-bitches must’ve been.

Anyway, by the current count, Smashburger now has 23 locations up and running in four states. Twelve of those locations are in Colorado, with eight in Denver alone. And another eight Colorado locations are already booked for 2009-2010 — in Grand Junction, Broomfield, Boulder, Arvada, Aurora, Colorado Springs (two spots) and — more joy! — downtown Denver, at an address that has yet to be revealed.

But the five-year plan? That calls for the chain to grow to more than two hundred locations — a crazy rate by any calculation and a seriously big number even in the age of Chipotle. Because at that point, Smashburger will be just seven years old.