Emerging Brands

Bobby Flay-created fast food burgers may be coming to a city near you

The Bobby's Burgers concept is in six nontraditional locations, including casinos and Yankee Stadium. Now the first multi-unit franchise agreement will bring a street side version to Chicago.
Bobby's Burgers Bobby Flay
The first traditional franchise units are expected to open in Chicago./Photo courtesy of Bobby's Burgers.

Hoping to appeal to the masses who love Bobby Flay but might not be able to reach (or afford) the celebrity chef’s high-end concepts, the quick-service Bobby’s Burgers is preparing for national franchise growth.

Charlotte, N.C.-based Intelligration Capital BB LLC (ICBB) is the licensor and franchisor for the streamlined brand, which has opened six nontraditional locations. Three Bobby’s Burgers units operate in Las Vegas casino/resorts, one is in Yankee Stadium in New York City, and there are locations in Harrah’s properties in New Jersey and New Orleans. In May, a new unit is scheduled to open in the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Now the group is launching the brand more broadly as a standalone concept.

Well Done Hospitality Group has signed a multi-unit agreement that will bring the brand first to Chicago with a streetside model, though it’s not clear when the first will open as the group is on the hunt for locations.

Michael McGill, president of ICBB, said the franchisor is also looking to grow the brand in the company’s home base of Charlotte, as well as Las Vegas, Denver, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and Atlanta. Between traditional and nontraditional, the group envisions 500 units opening over seven years across the country.

Flay, of course, brings star power.

The celebrity chef has built a small empire with restaurant concepts such as the (now closed) Mesa Grill, Bar Americain, and Gato. His Italian concept Amalfi is in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and Flay has appeared in two decades of cooking shows, from “Boy Meets Grill,” to “Throwdown” and “Bobby and Giada in Italy.” He also has his hand in several other ventures, including a podcast with his daughter, and a cat food company launched by his cat Nacho.

ICBB has partnered with Flay and managing partner Laurence Kretchmer to bring Flay’s food to a broader audience.

“The great thing about this concept is everyone knows Bobby Flay for his time on the Food Network and social media, his cookbooks and all the things that Bobby has done. But not everyone has the opportunity to go to his fine-dining restaurants like Mesa Grill or Amalfi,” McGill said. “We feel our brand gives everybody a chance to have a Bobby Flay dining experience at an affordable price.”

This limited-service Flay concept is entirely separate from Bobby’s Burger Palace, another casual Flay-created concept, which has only two units listed on its website: The Mohegan Sun in Connecticut and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. That concept is full service, with a much larger footprint, said McGill.

The group behind the smaller and more efficient Bobby’s Burgers includes private investors and a team of veteran restaurant operators.

McGill, for example, has worked with brands such as Krispy Kreme and Cold Stone Creamery. An investor and board member in Bobby’s Burgers is Bill Allen, the former CEO of Bloomin’ Brands and La Madeline who also co-founded Fleming’s. The board is chaired by Dan Beem, CEO of Hissho Sushi.

Other board members/investors include Jeff Vinik, owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and PrimePay co-founder Bill Pellicano.

With Flay, ICBB designed Bobby’s Burgers as a concept that could fall in either the quick-service or fast-casual space. It’s streamlined for efficiency, with a limited menu that’s entirely made to order.

“This truly is a chef-driven concept,” said McGill. “Bobby Flay is the R&D department for the brand. He is involved in what we’re doing on a day-to-day basis.”

Based on Flay’s love of grilling and his travels across the U.S., the menu includes seven variations of burgers made with certified Angus beef, which can be “Crunchified,” or topped with potato chips. There’s also a fried chicken sandwich and a veggie burger that comes from a winning recipe featured on the TV show “Beat Bobby Flay.”

Sides include fries and hand-battered buttermilk onion rings, along with “spoon-bending” shakes. “Pistachio is Bobby’s favorite,” said McGill.

In the kitchen is a clamshell grill that can cook a medium burger— “kissed top and bottom”—in about 2.5 minutes. The grill can also handle cooking multiple burgers to varying levels of doneness at the same time, with the potential of cooking about 300 burgers in an hour, McGill said.

The nontraditional sites are about 400 square feet, but the streetside restaurants will more likely range from 1,200 square feet for a self-contained location to 2,400 square feet, potentially with a drive-thru.

The price point is roughly between $18-$19 for a burger, side and drink, which McGill said is in line with competitors like Shake Shack, BurgerFi or Five Guys.

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