Hebrew for “multiple burgers” Burgerim opened its first location in 2008 and is now a successful franchise, with nearly 170 stores worldwide, the bulk of which is in Israel, where the company has more outlets than any other local competitor. Its founder is a chef called Donna Tuchner. An Israeli native, she attended culinary school in New York, before returning to her home country to open the first Burgerim restaurant in Tel Aviv, which is still there today. Her core idea was to offer customers variety. And by serving mini burgers, with a minimum order of two, Tuchner achieved just that. “The restaurant quickly became popular and had lines out the door,” says Juan Munoz, vice president of operations at Burgerim in the USA, where the company just opened its first store in Hollywood, Los Angeles.
Burgerim’s current owner and president Oren Loni, who previously opened schnitzel and yogurt franchises in Israel, noticed the restaurant’s unique approach and saw huge potential for it. He purchased Burgerim’s name and rights in 2010 and began to decisively scale the business by franchising all over Israel and beyond. Fast forward to 2016 and there are currently 168 operating locations in 16 countries worldwide, with 30 additional sites slated to open by the end of 2016 in the USA alone.
With its “always more than one” approach, customers can order a flight of two, three, or 16 different mini burgers. These mini burgers - not sliders – are made with 2.8 oz. patties (larger than a typical slider) and have custom sesame-seed, brioche-like buns. Each mini burger is the customer’s for the building and there are nine types of patties including four types of beef – regular, dry-aged, Wagyu and Merguez (spicy) – as well as lamb, chicken, turkey, salmon and a vegetarian option. There is a choice of three different buns, including the signature brioche, whole wheat and a gluten-free option, with toppings ranging from American cheese to sautéed mushrooms, fried egg, bacon, avocado and pineapple. Sides include fries, sweet potato fries, onion rings and cubed potatoes tossed in chilli sauce and topped with sesame seeds, while other menu items range from chicken wings and sandwiches such as the grilled chicken or the ribeye sandwich, to salads like the panzanella salad with fresh rocket with tomatoes, radishes, red onions, green onions, kalamata olives, basil, and croutons with a lemon vinaigrette side. There are just three desserts: New York cheesecake, flourless chocolate cake, and a marshmallow dream.
“Burgerim’s burgers are special because we use only the highest quality meats for consumers to build their own creations,” says Munoz. “Our meat-sourcing is specialised and top-tier to provide an outstanding meal for our customers.”
But it’s not just about the mini burgers and the company aims to create an atmosphere you wouldn’t find at an average burger joint. “ We want to give people an upscale, chic place with great atmosphere, music and décor,” explains Munoz.
Most of Burgerim’s restaurants are between 1,500 and 2,000sq ft in size. “We believe that less is more and strive for a modern upscale look with great atmosphere,” says Munoz. “Our locations are sleek, new and inviting. We are breaking that stigma of your conventional fast-casual environment. We want to give our customers a place that looks amazing and bridges the gap between fast-casual and fine dining to break the stigma that high quality food has to cost a lot of money.”
Indeed Burgerim’s pricing structure is accessible, with mini burger combos priced $8.95 (£6.85) for two; $11.95 (£9.10) for three; and $44.95 (£34.40) for a party box of 16 burgers. The average bill per customers comes in at $11 (£8.40) for a mini burger duo with a side and a drink.
Munoz insists that the company doesn’t really “have any competition”. “Burgerim is unique, from the flavours of meats to the choices we give our consumer,” he says. “And then there’s the atmosphere we create, the gourmet food, the ability to have beer or wine in most of our locations while watching a game. Plus we also include an in-house delivery service, which nobody else is really doing.”
Since embarking on its franchise programme in 2011, Burgerim has expanded to countries including Russia, Romania, China, Bangladesh, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and the company has just signed a contract with a franchisee in the UK.
But the major focus now is on the USA. A number of new stores are currently slated for California, as well as Houston, Texas, and Victorville, Florida, with other locations across the USA in the pipeline. “Our immediate plan of expansion in the USA is 30 locations built out by the end of this year,” says Munoz. “But we have over 90 leases signed so there will be a lot of new stores opening next year.”
The company’s ambitious five-year plan is to have more than 1,000 restaurants operating across the world and to become “one of the most recognizable names in the franchise market” insists Munoz. “Our long-term plan is to be the quintessential upscale fast-casual chain. We want to truly break the mould when it comes to your traditional burger place.”
With sliders a thing of the past, mini burgers might just be the next big thing.