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Back when Twisted Root Burger Co. cofounders Jason Boso and Quincy Hart met in culinary school and started talking about owning a restaurant some day, Boso says he had never heard of the better-burger segment.
“I personally just wanted a better burger,” Boso says. “To me, back in 2005 [and] 2006, there were fast-food burgers and steakhouse burgers. I love a steakhouse burger, but I didn’t want to pay $15 and a service charge. I wanted a nice, fat 8-ounce burger cooked to order the way I wanted it, and I wanted to be able to get it on a Tuesday without breaking the bank.”
After a few years paying their dues in the restaurant industry, the friends started Twisted Root Burger Co. in 2006. Three years later, Boso says, Guy Fieri put the business on the map by featuring Twisted Root Burger Co. on the Food Network show “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Since then the brand has grown to include 14 Texas locations and one in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Boso says that from the beginning, he intended for Twisted Root to be a multi-store concept, but he also wanted to ensure they could maintain the quality.
Twisted Root Burger Co. offers a build-your-own burger option and a list of specialty burgers. Popular specialty burgers include the Ranch Hand with house-made peppercorn ranch, bacon, and Swiss cheese, and the Spicy Goat with chipotle sauce, goat cheese, and bacon. Another spicy favorite is the Western with Pepper Jack cheese, bacon, fried onion strings, and jalapeños.
For both specialty and build-your-own burgers, guests choose if they want to start with a beef, turkey, or veggie patty. All are the same price. Specialty burgers range from $6.99 for the Lots-A-Shroom mushroom and Swiss burger to $8.99 for the Freshman 15, which is topped with smashed french fries, melted Cheddar, a fried egg, and bacon.
Twisted Root Burger Co.
CORFOUNDERS: Jason Boso and Quincy Hart
HQ: Dallas, Texas
YEAR STARTED: 2006
ANNUAL SALES: $26.25 million
TOTAL UNITS: 15
FRANCHISE UNITS: 3
Build-your-own burgers start at $5.99, and toppings range from the expected, like American cheese and bacon, to the less expected, like peanut butter, potato chips, and fried green tomatoes.
Twisted Root Burger Co. also offers unique meat options. For an additional $4, any burger can be made with venison, elk, lamb, ostrich, kangaroo, emu, boar, alligator, rabbit, camel, duck, or beaver.
“In Texas, people are not averse to eating an elk or venison burger, or even a kangaroo burger, which is a seasonal offering, as is ostrich,” Boso says.
He says the game meats can cost about $15 a pound, but he considers it a loss leader. “A guy doesn’t go back to the office and not tell everyone he had an ostrich burger for lunch,” Boso says.
Boso adds that Texans will also eat what is referred to on the Twisted Root Burger Co. menu as simply “Fried Stuff.”
“We’ve got build-your-own cheese fries, fried green beans, fried pork skins, sweet potato chips, fried pickles—you name it,” Boso says. There’s even an $8.99 sample platter so guests can try all eight fried items.
House-made custard shakes in flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and toasted coconut cream pie are also available for $4.99. For $3 more, adults can order a shake with 1.5 ounces of liquor in it.
Adult shake flavors include Banana & Bailey’s, Oreo & Amaretto, and Fruit Loop made with banana liqueur. All Twisted Root Burger Co. locations have a full liquor license, and Boso says serving a craft beer or cocktail alongside burgers helps differentiate the concept from others in the better-burger segment.
Boso sees Twisted Root Burger Co. positioned on “a springboard for growth,” with plans for existing Texas markets, as well as Alabama and other nearby states. The company is bringing on new people—including a CEO and COO—to facilitate growth.
In the next five years, Boso says, Twisted Root Burger Co. could grow to 60 stores. But don’t look for it in the country’s largest cities.
“We’re finding success in the ‘B’ market,” he says. “These are underserviced, smaller cities with high-level, quality markets. In places like Lubbock, [Texas,] and Shreveport, we’re killing it.”
Although Twisted Root will not enter a metropolis, Boso says, it might go an hour outside the city to a town of 200,000 or less. “We can be the big fish in a small pond and make a big splash.”
While back of house is standardized and efficient, each front of house is unique and funky to its location, Boso says. One feels like an old garage, another like a tailgate, and another like a dance hall.
The fact that every location is a new twist on the basic concept partly explains the name, but there’s a little more to it.
“Being a chef, I wanted the name to have some culinary play on words,” Boso says. “I was always cutting up onions and potatoes, which are root vegetables. Plus, I’m a little twisted and crazy.”