Owners of The Melting Pot Restaurants Inc. announced the national franchise launch of Burger 21, a new fast-casual concept featuring 21 chef-inspired burger creations, hand-dipped signature shakes, and more. Burger 21 opened its first corporate-owned restaurant in Tampa, Florida, in November 2010 with a second slated to open this fall. Now its founders will take the “beyond the better burger” concept national and offer franchising opportunities to qualified single and multiunit candidates.

Chief concept officer Mark Johnston; his wife, concept development director Arlene Johnston; and his brothers, CEO Bob Johnston and vice president Mike Johnston, founded Burger 21 in November 2009. Leveraging more than 25 years of franchising experience, the Johnston family recognized an opportunity to introduce a higher quality product in a rapidly growing foodservice category.

“We saw an opportunity to fill a void in the burger business, which has plenty of quick-service burger joints, a number of traditional, better burger establishments, and even upscale, full-service burger restaurants,” says Mark Johnston, chief concept officer of Front Burner Brands, management company for Burger 21. “The Burger 21 concept defines its own category—beyond the better burger—and offers quality, premium ingredients, innovative recipes, and a gourmet experience without the gourmet price.”

Burger 21’s menu and recipes are chef-inspired with many of the craft burgers, shakes, fries, and dipping sauces originally created under the guidance of a classically trained chef. Guests can select from 11 hand-crafted beef burgers made from fresh ground chuck or one of the 10 beef-alternative burgers made with sushi-grade Ahi Tuna, shrimp, turkey, chicken, vegetables, or black beans. 

“Since opening the doors to our first restaurant less than a year ago, Burger 21 has received rave reviews in Tampa and has experienced impressive sales that are exceeding the company’s expectations and other select better burger concepts,” says Bob Johnston, CEO of Front Burner Brands. “We have fine-tuned the concept and leveraged our collective franchising experience to create an innovative restaurant that is positioned for enormous growth.”   

To expand its footprint, Burger 21 has embarked on an aggressive growth strategy that includes initial development efforts focusing on Florida and extending into select markets along the East Coast. Over time, Burger 21 will broaden its expansion efforts into markets in the Midwest and along the West Coast.   

To fuel Burger 21’s growth, the company is seeking single and multiunit operators with foodservice and/or restaurant experience. Franchisee candidates should have a passion for and commitment to exceptional customer service, as well as possess the resources and ability to open their first unit within 12 months and each additional unit at a maximum of 12-month intervals. They also should have a minimum net worth of $500,000 and liquid assets of at least $200,000.   

Burger 21 has a contemporary-style diner atmosphere with nostalgic elements. The shake bar is in the center of the restaurant surrounded by plenty of seating inside and outside. A sauce bar features a large variety of dipping sauces that offer unique flavors to accompany the regular and sweet potato fries. The concept is designed to operate within 2,400–3,000 square feet. 

This month, Front Burner Brands was officially launched as the restaurant management company for Burger 21, The Melting Pot Restaurants Inc., and GrillSmith restaurants. Headquartered in Tampa, Front Burner Brands will serve as the umbrella organization for the three concepts and other concepts in development while creating efficiencies with operations, purchasing and distribution, marketing, communications, training, and other support functions.     

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