As we’ve been reporting in recent years, ‘better burgers’ are one of the hottest trends in the foodservice industry today. Industry estimates put U.S.hamburger sales at more than $100 billion last year, and sales at the fast-casual better-burger chains are expected to grow at 10% per year compared to a projected 3% growth for the hamburger market as a whole. Positioned firmly between the quick-serve offerings of McDonald’s and the sit-down casual hamburger meals from chains such as Applebee’s, the fast-casual better-burger companies tout their made-to-order and customizable high-quality beef hamburgers. Five Guys Burgers and Fries is the undisputed leader in this niche category, but there is no dearth of competitors going after the same consumer dollars, including Smashburger, The Habit Burger, The Counter, Jake’s Wayback Burgers, and Bobby’s Burger Palace among others. recently provided some details about the newest entrant into the better-burger war, the casual dining company Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc. A spokesman for Red Robin told Nation’s Restaurant News this past summer that it plans to test smaller restaurant prototypes in order to “pursue growth opportunities in non-traditional locations, including urban spaces, airports, universities and stadiums.” At that time, the company indicated its smaller locations would likely focus on burgers so as to “leverage our brand expertise.”
Its newest venture, Burger Works, is the first manifestation of its planned experiments. Burger Works borrows a few items from the parent company menu but the burgers are smaller and priced a few dollars less. At a Red Robin full-service restaurant, the average check in 2010 was $11.43; the burgers at Burger Works will start at less than $5. Like Five Guys and others, there are free add-ons such as sauces, dressings, salsas, and vegetables. There are also some premium add-ons such as cheese, bacon, guacamole, and a fried egg. The menu also includes salads, side items such as French fries, sweet potato fries and onion straws, kids’ meals, and desserts. Beer and wine will also be available.
The first location will open later in November at a mall in the Denvermarket, also home to the booming Smashburger chain. For more information, visit
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Linda Helman, Senior Editor 
Linda has worked at Chain Store Guide for twelve years. Prior to that, Linda worked as a research economist for the federal government, as an analyst for a management consulting firm and as a freelance writer. Please 
contact her if you have questions or comments.