BY RON RUGGLESS
Fun-loving burger concept pairs quality food with lively atmosphere.
Last week, NRN introduced the 2011 Hot Concepts! award winners. The Hot Concepts! awards are given each year by Nation’s Restaurant News to young, growing chains that embody the perseverance and entrepreneurial spirit of the restaurant industry. This week, find out more about each of the five concepts who were able to identify and capitalize upon opportunities in their markets across varying cuisine, service style and formality. Today’s winner spotlight is on Twisted Root Burger Co.
Concept name: Twisted Root Burger Co.
Owner: general partner Jason Boso, with limited partners
Year founded: 2006
Segment: fast-casual “better burger”
No. of units: 7
State where located: Texas
Systemwide sales: $10 million (estimate for 2011 year end)
Average unit volume: $2 million to $2.2 million
Average check: $10.35 per person
Target markets: Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma
Method of growth/funding: friends and family, limited liability partners
Vision: “a place where you can wear flip–flops and a baseball cap but not diminish the quality of the food”
The better-burger market has become a crowded segment in recent years, but Jason Boso says his concept, Twisted Root Burger Co., has the offbeat style needed to stand out from the competition.
The six-unit chain refuses to abandon its casual, fun-loving atmosphere, even as it maintains high standards for its food.
“The idea behind it was just chefs after work drinking beers and wanting a better burger, but not wanting to go to a steakhouse and eat one,” Boso, founder and general partner, said.
The first location opened in Dallas’ Deep Ellum neighborhood five years ago, and the seventh store is scheduled to open in Arlington, Texas, in September. The chain is planning openings in several other Texas cities, too.
Twisted Root is on track to reach $10 million in systemwide sales by year’s end, Boso said.
The slightly unusual name comes from the restaurants’ fresh-cut French fries.
“When we started in Deep Ellum, we had a little hand-crank machine to create fries out of potatoes,” Boso explained. “A potato, of course, is a root vegetable, so we called it Twisted Root. … [Plus], we thought we were a little twisted.”
But that twist has proven popular with customers. Boso estimates that by year’s end, average unit volumes will be above $2 million. The average per-person check is $10.35.
Boso said Twisted Root looks for real estate of about 3,200 square feet, seating indoors for about 100 and a patio. But every restaurant has its own personality.
“We really concentrate on the dining ‘feel’ and atmosphere; [we don’t want] just a bunch of uncomfortable chairs and drywall,” he said. “In the Fairview shopping area of Allen, Texas, it’s a drive-in movie theater. By Southern Methodist University it’s a vintage garage theme. In Arlington, which is home to the Texas Rangers baseball team and the Dallas Cowboys football arena, it’s going to be a tailgate theme.”
Jay Goldstein, who owns Advance Foodservice Consulting of Allen, Texas, said Twisted Root’s many faces let it fit well in different markets.
“This concept works downtown, uptown, in college town and in suburbia. … It is irreverent, fun and engaging.
“Nothing about this concept is copycat; it is an absolute original,” he added.
David T. Denney, a Dallas-based attorney who represents Twisted Root, said, “Twisted Root’s popularity stems from the fact that the company emphasizes ‘fun’ over ‘form.’ Jason has mastered the art of injecting a casual restaurant with energy. Not many owners will walk outside and squirt the people in line with a water gun on a hot summer day.”
Still, Twisted Root’s burgers are the main draw, Denney said.
The best-seller is the Western Burger, which sells for $7.99 and is topped with pepper Jack cheese, bacon, fried onion strings and jalapeños. The new Big German — a.k.a. The Dirk, after Dallas Mavericks star player Dirk Nowitzki — with a pretzel bun, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and horseradish mustard, is also popular.
House-made items such as pickles, condiments and custard “take our joint to the next level,” Boso said.
As Twisted Root grows, keeping the quirky personality is a top priority, he added.
Quincy Hart, the chef who has been with Twisted Root from the beginning and whose title is “cultural guru,” works with each opening team.
“He’s there injecting our personality into each and every employee,” Boso said.