To say Smashburger's CEO, Dave Prokupek, is comfortable with change is an understatement. In fact, he may even thrive on it and believes changing things up is one reason his chain has thrived since it launched five years ago. The better-burger franchise unveiled its redesign — its third in five years — when it opened its 200th unit last week in Denver, Colo. (See a slideshow of photos featuring the new design here.)
"When we started Smashburger we were committed to staying modern and relevant at every turn, in our recipes and in our design aesthetics," Prokupek said. "This new design is part of that commitment, with high-tech digital menu boards and localized art and storytelling graphics that we believe bring the Smashburger brand and experience alive for guests in the restaurants. We believe evolution is vital in the restaurant industry order to stay at the cutting edge of the industry and relevant and interesting to our guests."
The new design will serve as a template for all future openings, said Prokupek, who has plans to open 60 to 70 units this year. The updated décor also features softer lighting, earthy materials and brighter colors that offer a more contemporary feel. Each restaurant, however, will remain a little different from the next, because the chain will continue in its tradition of developing a local burger that incorporates the favorite ingredients and taste profiles of each region.
"With this new design we are able to carry that local feel and unique energy through to the décor in the restaurant as well," Prokupek said. "We are also telling the story of the Smashburger experience by scattering the key brand attributes throughout the restaurant, with words like 'juicy,' 'delicious' and 'smashed to order', shared tastefully across the restaurant."
Some of the guiding principles leading the new design make it simple, natural, comfortable, but modern and relevant for all occasions, said Tom Ryan, founder of Smashburger.
"It's important that we strike the right tone in our design that makes us a place where young families with small kids can come and feel comfortable, yet also a place where couples can on a date before heading to the movies and enjoy a craft beer and a burger pairing," he said. "We have our pulse on how people want to dine. They are looking for a modern, contemporary dining experience. Our décor was designed with this in mind."
Some of the enhancements to the interior design include softer lighting, high-tech digital menu boards, exposed wood plank ceiling rafters, stainless steel table trims, localized graphics and art, and a variety of new elements to improve the overall experience for the guests, Ryan said.
The Smashburger brand comes alive with storytelling in the graphics from the etched glass that details the attributes of those burgers — "fresh," "juicy," "delicious" and "smashed to order" — to the mosaic of photography which spotlights local landmarks, he said. In Colorado, for example, those include the Denver Skyline, the Rocky Mountains, Coors Field and an image of a skier, each depicting a different component of the Colorado lifestyle.
"Highlighting each local market is consistent with the approach Smashburger carries through on its menu with localized recipes created to reflect the local taste profiles," Ryan said. "It was important that the interior of our restaurants reflect the quality and variety of our great tasting burgers. Now there is great energy around both our food and our store's design."
The new design, Prokupek said, is simply a way for the brand to stand out from competition.
"As we look to the future to be just as successful as the last five years, it is critical that we continue differentiating ourselves a with a restaurant design that sets us apart in the same way that our food does," he said. "The enhanced look and feel of our restaurants now allows us to compete more directly with casual dining options. It opens Smashburger up to a wider audience of consumers, particularly in the dinner segment."
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Cherryh Butler has been a reporter for nearly 10 years, writing on a variety of topics ranging from the restaurant industry to business and health and fitness news. Before joining FastCasual.com as editor, she oversaw KioskMarketplace.com and PizzaMarketplace.com and contributed to RetailCustomerExperience.com. She's also written for several daily newspapers, magazines and websites, including The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine.