Emerging Brands

Chicago-based Meatheads Burgers to be absorbed by Epic Burger

The acquisition will allow the "more mindful" Epic Burger to more than double in unit count and will bring drive-thru locations into the fold. But Meatheads will be no more.
Epic Burger
The fast-casual Epic Burger focuses on premium ingredients, including halal-certified meat. | Photo courtesy of Epic Burger

The Chicago-based Epic Burger chain has acquired all six Meatheads Burger locations across the Windy City with plans to convert them by Dec. 1.

The move, which was announced on Thursday, will allow the Epic Burger concept to more than double in unit count from its current five units to 11 in the Chicagoland area. It also marks an end for the Meatheads Burger brand, which along with parent company Crave Brands LLC, filed for bankruptcy in 2021.

Epic Burger CEO David Grossman said he acquired the Meatheads operation from the Crave Brands’ lender as a result of the bankruptcy. Grossman picked up the six restaurants with the goal of converting them to the fast-casual Epic brand.

Changing the signage, POS system, recipes and more will take some time, however, so the restaurants will continue to operate as Meatheads until they are converted, he said.

Grossman said he’s particularly happy to bring the first drive-thru locations into the Epic Burger family. Four of the six Meatheads have a drive-thru, and that component could be a key to the Epic chain’s future growth, he said. Two locations are near college campuses in Bloomington and Champaign, which will also help the Epic brand reach a burger-hungry audience.

Calling itself a “more mindful” burger concept, Epic Burger focuses on the use of premium ingredients, like local Wisconsin cheese, organic ice cream, nitrite-free bacon and cage-free eggs. The burgers and grilled chicken are halal-certified, he said.

The concept was founded by David Friedman in 2008, but Grossman acquired the concept in late 2020. At the time it had eight units, but three unprofitable locations were closed after the sale.

“The company had been neglected and it was broken,” said Grossman. “I believe I fixed it.”

Grossman, who had worked previously as an area developer for Freshii and Subway, said he brought the five remaining units to profitability by improving the food, upgrading the restaurant atmosphere and developing the staff.

The average unit volume for an Epic Burger is about $1.2 million currently, but Grossman believes he can get units to about $1.6 million, or higher with a drive-thru.

Once the Meatheads locations are absorbed, Grossman said the company will look for more growth, perhaps in markets outside Chicago, like Detroit or other parts of the Midwest. Franchising could be an option down the road, he said.

“Right now, our strategy is to focus on the drive-thru,” he said. “We really want to understand that component and get the operations down.”

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