Growth-minded U.S. burger chain looks north

A restaurant firm billing itself as the fastest-growing of the fast-casual burger chains in the U.S. has booked its move into Canada, starting in Calgary.

Denver-based Smashburger said last week it has signed its first two lease agreements in Calgary and expects to open its first restaurant there by 2012, with plans for 10 to 15 more in the Calgary and Edmonton markets "over time."

The company said it’s also "actively seeking experienced multi-unit operators to become franchise partners across all provinces."

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"Canada is a very attractive market to us and we believe we are bringing a unique, premium dining experience at a competitive price point to local residents," CEO Dave Prokupek said in a release last week.

The chain, he said, is in talks with "potential franchise partners to further expand our presence with experienced operators in both Vancouver and Toronto."

Named to the No. 1 spot on Forbes magazine’s 2011 list of "America’s most promising companies," Smashburger in September announced plans for its first international expansions into Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and has said it’s also looking for franchise partners in the U.K.

Smashburger, developed starting in 2007 and owned by Denver-based private equity firm Consumer Capital Partners, now has 131 outlets in the continental U.S. The parent firm’s other investments have included the Quizno’s sandwich shop chain and assorted "leisure-related real estate."

The chain, which in the U.S. uses Angus beef exclusively, makes a point of introducing a "localized menu" in each of its host cities, and plans to unveil its regional burger in Calgary when the first outlet opens there.

Its other menu items include an assortment of chicken sandwiches, hot dogs and salads as well as fries and a fried-vegetable array of asparagus spears, carrot sticks and green beans. It said it also plans to offer "local beers" and wine.

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