Smashburger’s UK managing director Tim Lowther has left his post and been replaced by former Burger King executive, Tracy Gehlan, MCA has learnt.
Meanwhile, the concept’s founder Tom Ryan has said he believes it has the potential to take the lion’s share of the UK better burger market.
Ryan was speaking via conference call as the brand launched its second UK store in Brighton.
The UK franchise is being led by Niels Ladefoged and Satnam Grewal, who separately own the franchises for c200 Dominoes branches under the MSG Group, as well as six branches of grab and go burrito concept Poncho Eight, clustered in the City of London.
At the Brighton launch last night, the second UK opening after Milton Keynes, Ladefoged said the partners had never planned to take on the franchise for a burger group, but were won over by Smashgburger during a visit to the US.
The pair have a pipeline of regional openings which includes Glasgow, Bath, Wednesbury, Colchester, Dunfermline and Stirling, with a further 20 sites under negotiation.
Speaking via Skype from the US, Tom Ryan said: “Burgers have become a worldwide phenomenon, and I look at the health of the better burger market as an index of our good health.
“I believe that our levels of differentiation and distinctiveness gives us an advantage over our competitors… and I am sure we will enjoy a big share if not the lion’s share of that market.”
Ryan, who founded the brand in Denver in 2007, said big corporate brands like his ex-employer McDonald’s were “not very innovative”.
He said Smashburger sought “perpetual youth” as a brand, and was aiming to appeal to a median age of 32 year olds.
He added: “Quite frankly I don’t want to appeal to 42 year olds, I want to the coolest concept for 32 year olds. I want us to be forever young.”
Lowther, who helped introduce Five Guys into the north of England and oversaw Shake Shack’s introduction to the UK, was appointed UK managing director for Smashburger in April last year.
Gehlan stepped down from Burger King last year after nine years with the group – latterly as vice president and COO EMEA - to join Jatomi Fitness as chief executive.