For the past 30 years, award-winning chef and TV personality Bobby Flay has expressed his culinary passion through a multitude of ventures, from the opening of Mesa Grill in 1991 to the long-running “Beat Bobby Flay,” a famed television show with well over 300 episodes.
Throughout those decades of food and entertainment, Flay never parted with his childhood love of burgers, fries, and shakes, which led to the opening of his latest fast casual, Bobby’s Burgers. The first Las Vegas opened at Caesars Palace during the spring, and two more are scheduled to open at Harrah’s Las Vegas, a resort offering more than 2,500 renovated hotel rooms and suites, and Paris Las Vegas, a venue featuring 2,900 rooms and suites. In addition to the Las Vegas stores, Bobby’s Burger’s also has a booth inside Yankee Stadium.
The restaurant’s menu is described as “burgers with a twist.” Notable menu items include the Crunchburger, a hamburger topped with bacon, American cheese, and potato chips; or the Bobby Blue + Bacon Burger, topped with blue cheese sauce and bacon. For guests wanting the nontraditional, there’s Bobby’s Veggie Burger, with barbecue mushrooms, chickpeas, quinoa, lettuce, and tomato.
Sides include French fries, sweet potato fries, and buttermilk onions; milkshake flavors, such as vanilla bean, dark chocolate, cookies and cream, strawberry, and pistachio; and a range of beverages and beers. Additionally, Harrah’s location will offer breakfast options on its menu.
The growing fast casual is not to be mistaken with Bobby’s Burger Palace, another upscale quick-service chain Flay opened in 2008. That particular brand has three locations across Connecticut, Georgia, and Maryland.
QSR recently sat down with Flay to learn more about the brand’s inspiration, how it’s navigating the pandemic, and further details about its upcoming expansion plans.
Describe the main differences between Bobby’s Burger Palace and Bobby’s Burgers?
Bobby’s Burgers, to me, is the next generation of Bobby’s Burger Palace, with a fresh identity thanks to new, sleek branding, and a simplified menu featuring our greatest hits (plus some exciting new items, too). Both concepts proudly serve the very best quality ingredients, all thoughtfully and expertly prepared-to-order for each customer.
There are several differences between Bobby’s Burgers and Bobby’s Burger Palace. First of all, the name is shorter and to the point. The service model is different, starting with the pared down menu size across the board. We have eliminated the “full service” feel of bringing your food to you at a table and instead everything is packaged to-go which creates a clearer path for the staff and the customer.
Our business model has changed significantly. While we owned the majority of BBPs [Bobby’s Burgers Palace] and ran them “in-house”, Bobby’s Burgers is strictly a franchise and licensing business. We are looking forward to taking on the most qualified partners while protecting the intellectual property and practical concept. That is my ultimate focus with BBs [Bobby’s Burgers].
Bobby’s Burgers is a fresh take on how I’ve been serving burgers in the quick-casual environment. Burgers are always my personal go-to when I’m craving a satisfying meal. I’ve pared down the menu to a concise list of must-have items but at the same time kept that certain edge that is unmistakably Bobby Flay.
My longtime business partner, Laurence Kretchmer and I decided to tap a branding professional (A Studio) and a cutting edge designer (Olivia Jane Design) to bring the new approach to life.
Could you share more about the inspiration behind the Bobby’s Burgers menu?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a burger guy. Growing up on New York’s Upper East Side, many meals were spent eating burgers at the iconic JG Melon, which certainly inspired my own burger concept. It’s all about making those classic, comforting favorites with the absolute best ingredients, and using the same culinary techniques you’ll see in my high end restaurants, too … all presented within a bustling, vibrant fast-casual environment.
Bobby’s Burgers menu is focused on the quintessential American casual meal of burgers, fries and shakes. Through my travels, specifically across America I’ve been inspired by regional ingredients especially on how they work within the Burger concept. I teach my teams at BB the same techniques I would teach my staff in my fine-dining kitchens so that each burger is cooked properly and every layer of flavor is handled with care. I think about how every bite of every burger and the sides that accompany them tastes so the customer has an experience that keeps them craving for more even days later.
What’s the typical demographic of Bobby’s Burgers?
Anyone who loves a good burger, shake, and fries. We also recently added a crispy chicken sandwich to the menu that our guests seem to be really excited about.
What’s the expected timeline of the Harrah’s Las Vegas and Paris Las Vegas stores? Why were those locales selected?
Bobby’s Burgers at Harrah’s Las Vegas is slated to open by December 2021 and Bobby’s Burgers at Paris Las Vegas is anticipated to open March 2022.
What made Las Vegas the best market for expansion?
Las Vegas is renowned for incredible hospitality business and I’ve been really grateful to find such a fantastic partners in Caesars Entertainment. To be able to contribute to the industry here and share my passion for great burgers (and beyond) with Las Vegas visitors is a dream come true.
To what extent will macro-economic factors like supply chain shortages, inflation, and labor problems impact your team’s ability to open these stores in an efficient manner?
In terms of supply chain, we have done a lot of advance work on planning for development and openings by forging strong relationships with our primary vendors to overcome any obstacles with respect to the pipeline of new openings and ongoing operations so that we can proceed with confidence
When it comes to labor, I think that people are excited to work for the brand and continue to seek out opportunities to join the team. We’ve also developed very strong training programs so that we can welcome any interested team members and make them successful.
What’s the status of the brand’s franchising program? Are there plans to build free-standing and inline/endcap stores with operators in the future?
Stay tuned for some exciting announcements we are looking forward to sharing soon.