A headline on the Super Duper website proclaims, “Burgers Shouldn’t Cost $3.” But don’t misinterpret that and look for the concept’s dollar menu. Founder Adriano Paganini says a burger is a meal and should therefore cost more than a cup of coffee.
A Super Duper Mini Burger, which is a single 4-ounce patty on a bun made specially for the brand by a San Francisco baker, costs about $6, depending on whether a customer adds cheese. It comes with proprietary Super Sauce and homemade pickles. A two-patty Super Duper Burger is about $8.
“If a burger costs $3 or less, you’re not getting enough food or enough quality,” Paganini says. “But it doesn’t need to cost $15 either. We’re charging the right price for the right quality.”
Paganini, founder and CEO of the San Francisco–based restaurant group Back of the House, says that when he first envisioned Super Duper, a quality burger served quickly and relatively inexpensively was a big idea.
“It wasn’t popular right out of the gate,” he says. “We knew people who were coming in were happy, but it wasn’t until we opened the second location, which was downtown, that we got really busy. The second location was incredibly busy from the beginning.”
Paganini says people were willing to wait in line at Super Duper because of the burger’s superior quality. Beef is ground fresh each day at Super Duper and cooked by mashing the patty on the chrome flattop grill.
“It’s important that when we turn burgers, we scrape everything off the grill,” he says. “All the roasted caramelized parts of burger stay on the burger because we use a very sharp spatula.”
Super Duper patties are cooked medium, spending only about a minute per side on the hot griddle. Paganini stresses that it’s very important to stick to that time and ensure the burger isn’t overcooked. As a result, Super Duper cooks require a lot of training.
In addition to burgers, Super Duper offers a chicken sandwich, a veggie burger, and a Super Salad to which a beef patty or chicken can be added. Sides are limited to french fries served plain or topped with garlic and aged Cheddar cheese.
“We only have fries as a side to keep it simple,” Paganini says. “People say we should have sweet potato fries or onion rings, but if we want to go fast and stay inexpensive, the only way to do that is to keep it simple.”
There are additional opportunities to indulge at Super Duper, however. The concept offers shakes and chocolate-dipped soft-serve ice cream cones made from locally sourced organic milk.
Super Duper Burgers
Founder/Owner: Adriano Paganini
HQ: San Francisco
Year started: 2010
Annual sales: $28 million
Total units: 10
Franchised units: 0
Dinnertime business is strengthened by the availability of beer and wine at Super Duper, in addition to traditional fountain sodas and iced tea. “When a quality burger is cooked properly, it’s like eating at a steakhouse, so you want a really nice glass of wine with it,” Paganini says.
Burgers are the star of lunch and dinner, but Paganini also saw an unmet demand for quick, high-quality morning items. Super Duper started offering breakfast at some stores two years ago, and will roll it out to remaining locations this year. Offerings include organic egg sandwiches with bacon, sausage, or avocado, as well as homemade mini doughnuts.
No matter what time guests visit Super Duper, one thing they will never see in the dining room is a trashcan. All of the packaging used for menu items is compostable. Bottles and cans are recycled, while drinking glasses are washed and reused.
“We decided to install a dishwasher,” Paganini says. “We could use compostable cups, but that creates a huge amount of waste. Just because something is compostable [doesn’t mean it’s] always best to use. Compostable cups are made of corn, and corn should mainly be used for food. If we can wash and reuse glasses, that’s better.”
Paganini is also passionate about the ambiance of his restaurants.
“Why do fast-food places look like punishment, with light that is awful and materials that are plastic?” Paganini says. “We decided to create a place where you can eat fast and the food tastes good and the place feels good by using natural finishes.”
In addition to wood and metal surfaces, signage hand-painted by local artists adds to the feel-good décor of Super Duper stores, which range in size from 1,500 to 3,500 square feet.
Paganini plans to expand Super Duper in a controlled manner, adding three to five restaurants per year. “For now we’ll continue to grow in the Bay Area,” he says. “This is a big market. It could support 40–50 locations. Then we’ll start to consider going outside of the Bay Area.”