No longer content to settle for a typical meal at fast food restaurant consisting of overcooked burgers and fries laden with fat, calories and a side order of indigestion, consumers are frequenting their alternative—known as “fast casual” restaurants in industry parlance—in increasingly greater numbers. Fast casual restaurants have carved out a niche separate from their drive-through counterparts by doing a few things differently: utilizing fresh ingredients and preparing food from scratch as well as providing table service to customers, whom they hope will pay more for the experience.
It seems as though they already are. According to Technomic—a research firm for the food industry—the top 150 fast casual chains grew 8.5 percent in 2011 during a sluggish economy, higher than the top 500 restaurant chains, which lagged behind with 3.5 percent growth in 2011.
And now, keeping in stride with neighboring communities that have built their own fast casual neighborhood standbys like Chipotle, Five Guys Burgers and Panera, Mamaroneck welcomes to its new 2,400 square foot location on the ground level of 448 Mamaroneck Ave.
The restaurant is named for the method by which the ground meat is smashed into a hot (375 degree) buttered grill with a large metal tool, caramelizing the ball of beef, and resulting in a juicy and flavorful burger, the piece de resistance of the restaurant chain.
“It cooks the burger in 2 ½ minutes—it really makes the whole concept come together,” said Smashburger Director of Operations David Madison, as he enthusiastically showed me a demonstration of the method during a soft opening yesterday afternoon.
Speed of service is a quality the restaurant prides itself on, as well as giving customers a “full-service experience” that includes table service from restaurant staff after an order is placed in the front.
“You’re going to get your food in six minutes,” said Madison. Checks average between $10-$12.
“It fits the niche of wanting to go out but not wanting to spend $50,” he said.
One question that’s sure to be on the minds of savvy customers who are curious about the origins of their food: Where is Smashburger’s beef sourced from?
“Our 100 percent Angus beef is fresh, never frozen, bought from local farmers in the Midwest; it’s a single source buyer that processes to our specifications,” said Greg Creighton, president of Smashburger.
In a further break from the fast food world’s reliance on processed or low quality ingredients, the restaurant distinguishes itself with, “world cheeses, high quality produce and condiments as well as unique menu items such as sweet potato and chili cheese fries and Philly sliced onions,” said Creighton.
And, for those that seek variety, burgers aren’t the only item on the menu, which includes several different kinds of salads, chicken sandwiches, veggie burgers and hot dogs. Smashburger even serves beer and wine as an alternative to the more innocuous standbys like milkshakes and root beer.
The five-year-old company currently has 164 locations worldwide and 450 franchises, of which the Mamaroneck location is one. The location is owned by Smash Partners, a group of four entrepreneurs—Richard Greenstein, Eric and Ronnie Portnoy and Howard Novick—who plan to open a total of 24 Smashburger locations in NY and Connecticut within the next few years. The partnership also owns 50 Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants throughout New York City and Long Island.
The next location planned for Westchester will be in Pelham Manor, near Fairway, and is expected to open in September.
According to Greenstein, though, Mamaroneck was the perfect place to open his first Westchester location.
“I love the small community; a great new restaurant gets a lot of buzz,” he said, adding, “You can bring your family for a reasonable amount of money, order at the counter and then sit down and relax; we take care of the rest.”
Smashburger is located at 448 Mamaroneck Ave. in the Village of Mamaroneck. Hours are 10 a.m. -10 p.m., Mon-Thurs, 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Fri-Sat. For more information, please visit the Smashburger website here.