Thinking of Buying a Fast-Casual Franchise? Read this report first.

QSR Interview | By Sherri Daye Scott

‘Fine Dining Between Two Buns’

Instead we found a baker in town. We went through a lot of bakers, and we tested a lot of bread. We started with a generic type of bread that you are going to get at a McDonald’s or a Burger King and soft, squishy stuff you’re going to buy in Publix or Kroger’s. Then we went all the way and said, “Let’s get the most serious baker in town.” What we got was bread that’s almost not American, crunchy. Honestly, who wants to eat a burger on a Kaiser roll?

America wants soft bread, personally, that’s what I think. Or that’s what I want, so maybe that’s just my opinion. So we got another baker in town. We worked on the recipe with him. They bake every night, they ship every morning.

How local is your menu? Think of a fine-dining restaurant, we need to have great vendors and great providers to make us great. It’s not just all about Flip. It’s about Alon’s bakery, it’s about the company that grinds our meat for us, and it’s about the farmers.

We’re probably one of the only fast-casual concepts that buys directly from farmers. That’s important because as creative as we are, we’re just as much about using organic and local product.

As Flip grows, one thing that we really want to make sure of is that the menu slightly varies from place to place. Here we have a lot of southern influences on the menu. Southern bread and butter pickles on the burger. We’re doing a sweet tea milk shake, Krispy Kreme, those are all things that we think speaks for the local market that say, “Hey, this is an Atlanta restaurant!”

When Flip opens up in New York then there’ll be a New York burger. When Flip goes to Miami, the Miami Flip is going to have a Cuban sandwich–style burger. It’s going to be tasty because we already have that in develop.

Any timeline on those expansion plans? We certainly don’t have a date and we don’t have real estate purchased, but there is serious interest. New York and Miami. Miami is probably the most serious right now. New York? I’m a New Yorker so I’d eventually like to do the prodigal son sort of thing. I need to do a concept in New York at some point. It might not even be Flip.

Why the name Flip Burger Boutique? Barry came up with the name Flip. It’s Flip, like you would flip a burger. It’s kind of a fun name and, then besides that, we’re kind of flipping things around. We have fun with it. You know, our takeout is going to be Flip Out.

Flip Out? When will we see that? We’ve already had people come in. We’re not going to turn it down right now, but it’s probably Phase 2. Probably about springtime, I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw a Flip Out truck rolling around the neighborhood. We’re not going to be that restaurant that says we don’t do takeout. Really, its hamburgers and french fries, we’re going to do whatever people want.

Have you thought about packaging for that? We’re working on it. We started with the retro. I’m going to date myself here but if you remember the old McDonald’s McDLTs? The hot side stays hot and the cold side stays cool? We kind of have that kind of thing going on right now.

Packaging is going to be a big part of Flip Burger. We plan on retailing some condiments. We have so many people that want to walk away with it. We’re going to go with toothpaste-like tubes of condiments, which I think is really neat, especially since it’s kind of a souvenir. I love when you get something from a restaurant.

But will Flip burgers stand up to transport? That’s been a concern of my partner, Barry. You know you drive the half hour with a burger for lunch. Are you really getting the same experience you would in the restaurant? Or are you going to go online and blog a negative review?

The Internet has opened up a whole new unbelievable era. Everyone’s a critic. And we keep track of that. We Google alert, obviously, my name, the restaurant’s name, the burgers, liquid nitrogen. We stay on top of this stuff to make sure that we’re on the edge and doing things that most people aren’t doing. Getting feedback from blogs can be frustrating—a lot of times they’re outdated and old and you have to be able to take critiques.

For example, it’s a southern restaurant so we actually take a burger and batter it. Some guy wrote, “It was really crispy.” That’s useless information for us because it’s crispy, it’s supposed to be crispy. Or when someone writes he didn’t like the pimento cheese on it. Then you shouldn’t have ordered it. That’s a silly review. It says pimento cheese on the menu.

On the good side, I’ll give you something we did learn. That same review read: “I ordered two burgers, a side, and a milk shake and my bill was just over $20 and I don’t know if that’s going to work in this economy.” It was good for us to see that because we think that’s a great price point. We think that if you can come in here and get two burgers, a side, and a milk shake for $22–$23 then we’re in good shape. It’s not like you just ordered a burger and fries. Plus you are getting some liquid nitrogen milk shake. You get some excitement, you know? But also that’s a genuine opinion, that’s someone’s opinion and that’s kind of on the edge maybe to some people price wise, so that stuff we have to listen to.

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