Smashburger Founder Tom Ryan Innovates Locally to Gain Market Share Nationally

Posted by IFMA December 08, 2014

Tagged in Connect Foodservice Innovation Operator Collaboration Model

The restaurant industry presents numerous ways to innovate and gain an increased share of the consumer's food dollar. New menu offerings that truly captivate consumer interests are always grand slams, especially in the fast casual segment where expectations from consumers continue to grow.

Consider the idea of pairing burgers with craft beers provided by local breweries. Such might be something most consumers would expect to be introduced at full-service restaurants. However, the Smashburger fast casual restaurant chain introduced this concept to 10 of its venues in the Chicago market last year, as well as other markets around the country. This was part of its ongoing vision to celebrate local markets with innovative product offerings, as well as try new ideas that customers are likely to embrace.

"From day one we wanted to localize our menu," said Smashburger Founder & Chief Concept Officer Tom Ryan in a 2013 Chicago Tribune article. He added that the restaurant chain followed through with this vision by introducing a locally themed burger in every market.

As for how the burger and local raft beer pairings have performed, Mr. Ryan said Smashburger stores that provide the offering realize 20-50 percent increases in beer sales.

"When I was in college, you could walk into a bar and say: 'I'll have a burger and a beer,' and that's all you had to say," Mr. Ryan said. He then said options for both have grown since those days, implying that restaurants need to find ways to adapt and address accordingly.

Appearing live at COEX 2015:

National restaurant chains like Smashburger do not grow from a single venue to nearly 300 locations in seven years without strong executive-level vision and operational excellence. Mr. Ryan will be addressing how his vision for Smashburger has come to fruition during his keynote address at IFMA's Chain Operator EXchange (COEX) March 1-4 in Henderson, NV. He will also address critical issues that affect the foodservice industry nationwide.

Mr. Ryan's success at Smashburger and his unique background has made him one of the most sought after executive speakers in the foodservice industry. Mr. Ryan began his career as a food scientist with doctorate degrees in flavor and fragrance chemistry. During his studies, he became intrigued with Marketing and Consumer Research, which lead him to executive-level positions at McDonalds and Quiznos prior to founding Smashburger.

Register to Attend COEX, taking place this March in Henderson, NV, and experience one of the industry's most dynamic and innovative leaders, as he speaks about a variety of critical topics most relevant to operators, manufacturers and other important firms that serve the foodservice industry. To learn more about maximizing your company's exposure during COEX, email Tony DePaolo at or view the COEX Sponsor Brochurefor more details.

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