“We don’t do one-offs in any market,” Tom Ryan says. “I think we’re going to build more.”
Since opening its first location in Denver in 2007, Smashburger has added more than 220 stores to its portfolio, debuting in South Carolina last December. When the Columbia franchise opened, its owner told The State that if his store succeeded, it would likely prompt the chain to set up shop in Charleston.
“Burgers are Americans’ favorite food, and Charleston people love burgers as well as — if not better than — average Americans,” says Ryan, who envisions “tons of happy people enjoying juicy burgers” at Azalea Square’s Smashburger.
Although Smashburger serves salads, chicken sandwiches and Haagen-Dazs shakes, it primarily promotes itself as a “better burger” purveyor: The chain’s name derives from its signature method of smashing beef on the grill to sear in its juices. The words “handcrafted”, “soul”, “artisan” and “olive oil” all pop up on Smashburger’s online “about” page.
“You’re not eating out of a bag,” Ryan says. “You’re eating with real knives and real forks.”
At Smashburger, customers place their orders at a counter, but the food’s delivered by a staffer. Ryan describes a Smashburger meal as a social occasion, enhanced by wine and beer served in frosted mugs. The chain strives to offer local craft beers which pair with its burgers, but Ryan says Charleston beer’s program is still in the works. “We’ll get to that within the next year,” he promises.
In the meantime, Ryan says the Summerville menu will list “local sodas” (Sundrop and Cheerwine) and a Carolina Burger developed for the Columbia store. The burger features American cheese, chili, yellow onion, Duke’s mayonnaise and slaw; it’s served on a pretzel bun. Although Ryan didn’t have precise sales figures immediately available, he says the localized burger is typically a location’s second- or third-bestselling sandwich.
“It’s layers of ooey, gooey goodness,” he says.
Smashburger will be open daily at 210 Azalea Square Blvd., Suite A, from 11 a.m.-10 p.m.