If you watch the pages and Web updates of QSR, you’re sure to have heard of the emerging fast-casual chain Smashburger. What’s less likely is you know about the company’s ties to the tumultuous quick-serve brand Quiznos.
Smashburger is a growing burger concept out of Denver that has 11 stores open already and more than 200 sold. It’s also backed by a $15 million investment from Consumer Capital Partners (CCP), where Quiznos’ founder and newly re-appointed CEO, Rick Schaden, is a partner.
Before bloggers run to Tweet the news out to disillusioned Quiznos franchisees, though, Tom Ryan, Smashburger’s founder (and former Quiznos chief concept officer) says there’s nothing to worry about.
“Rick is one of the partners at Consumer Capital Partners but he does not have any day-to-day involvement in the Smashburger business,” Ryan says. “Smashburger is an independent entity operating under the umbrella of CCP.”
While Schaden’s return to the Quiznos helm raises eyebrows throughout the industry and the brand’s vocal franchisee base, Ryan maintains that changes at Quiznos do not affect his brand.
“We have a great young, aggressive management team at Smashburger sourced from the brightest, best, and youngest in the industry,” he says.
But there are similarities between the two brands that go beyond the personnel. The problems with Quiznos are often blamed on the brand’s attempt to grow too fast too soon. Similarly, Smashburger’s growth has been break-neck since it began in 2007.
Ryan defends the concept’s expansion strategy, however, saying execs believe in “metered growth” and pay close attention to their corporate markets before expanding.
The company is watching Houston, Minneapolis, and New Jersey for growth potential.
In perhaps another attempt to avoid mistakes made at Quiznos, Ryan says Smashburger is only working with experienced franchisees interested in opening at least 30 stores.
“We’re being very selective,” he says. “We’re screening for multiunit operators with decades of experience, who have their own capital to invest, and have a kind of financial, operational, and general infrastructure.”