Did you need any more confirmation that burgers are hot? Nation’s Restaurant News reports that several burger chains are on track to hit the $1 billion mark. The magazine names Five Guys Burgers and Fries leader of the pack: The burger franchise had sales of $453 million last year, up 50 percent from 2008—an astounding figure in the midst of The Great Recession.
Five Guys had incredible growth in 2009, increasing units by 52 percent (from 360 to 547 units) while most other restaurant franchises experienced a slow down. And last month, market research firm Technomic Inc. named Five Guys number one on its list of the 10 fastest-growing chains in 2009 with sales of $200 million or more.
Other franchise companies in the running to hit $1 billion include Elevation Burger, Habit Burger Grill, and Smashburger. NRN reports there are also plenty of smaller companies hoping to make names for themselves—and there’s still lots of room to grow.
Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, told NRN: “We’ll continue to see a high level of growth over the next two or three years.”
This might not surprise you —- given that hamburgers are pretty much America’s favorite food, can be dressed up or down, and can be sold for $1 or $25 depending on where you’re located and what’s included. But what makes a winning burger chain? Inc. Magazine recently profiled Five Guys founder Jerry Murrell in its “How I Did It” column, where Murrell relates how he and his sons launched Five Guys with one small burger join on an Ocean City boardwalk. Here are some of Murrell’s secrets:
- The basics of making money in the food business? “A good product, reasonable prices, and a clean place.”
- Customers are your best sales tool, so Five Guys puts it money into the food, not the d?cor or marketing, and lets word-of-mouth do the work.
- Quality is king. Five Guys uses fresh meat, toasts buns on the grill for better flavor, and makes everything to order.
- Each store is audited twice a week for cleanliness and service.
I see these same ideas being implemented in most of the burger franchises that are catching fire right now. Quality, customization, and a sense of ownership on the part of both employees and customers add up to diners who return again and again. If you own a food franchise, take note. And if you’re looking for a food franchise to buy —- well, it’s hard to go wrong when you’re selling America’s sweetheart, the hamburger.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva on Twitter at Twitter.com/Rieva. Visit SmallBizDaily.com to read more of Rieva’s insights on small business and to buy her newest book, Marketing 101: Quick Tips for Marketing Your Business.