Burger 21, a better-burger franchise founded by the owners of The Melting Pot Restaurants Inc., announced the signing of its first franchise agreement in Michigan. Set to open in Ann Arbor, this Michigan location expands the brand’s national footprint to 10 states.

Additionally, the company signed two franchise agreements for single units in Ocala, Florida, and Raleigh, North Carolina. The new deals are part of the fast-casual concept’s aggressive growth strategy to expand its presence in new and existing markets nationwide. To date, Burger 21 has 13 open locations and 25 franchised restaurants in development across the country.

“In under three years, we’ve made impressive strides in building Burger 21’s national presence and are pleased with the overall success that the brand has experienced thus far,” says Dan Stone, vice president of franchise development for Front Burner Brands, management company for Burger 21. “Raleigh, Ocala, and Ann Arbor represent three new markets where we are confident that Burger 21’s diverse menu and unique dining experience will be extremely well received. All three of our new franchise groups come with great foodservice and franchising backgrounds and they all have a desire to open additional Burger 21 locations in the future.”

Mohammad and Wisal Samaha, experienced multiunit Jimmy John’s franchisees, plan to open the first Burger 21 location in the state of Michigan in Ann Arbor by summer 2015. “When searching for a fast casual concept to invest in, Burger 21 was the obvious choice,” Wisal says. “As experienced franchisees, my husband and I appreciate the extensive training and support provided by Front Burner Brands. We look forward to bringing the first Burger 21 to Michigan and know that the Ann Arbor community will love its 21 chef-inspired burgers as much as we do.”

Additionally, John Usher and Ken DePasquale will open a restaurant in Ocala, Florida, in the first half of 2015. Both partners are seasoned restaurant operators with Usher having owned nine McDonald’s restaurants, while DePasquale has operated several independent restaurants. Lastly, long-time foodservice operators Mitch Neal and Keith Smith are planning to open their first restaurant in the Morrisville area of Raleigh, North Carolina, by summer 2015. Neal, who has owned and operated eight Sonic drive-in locations, will manage the restaurant’s day-to-day operations.

“Keith and I are very excited to bring the first true better-burger concept to the Triangle. Burger 21 is literally redefining the gourmet fast-casual burger. The taste profiles are out of this world and will leave your taste buds screaming for more,” Neal says. “The brand’s national pledge and commitment to support local charitable organizations on the 21st of each month speaks volumes as both of our families are active members of our surrounding Triangle communities. We look forward to seeing our neighbors in their local Burger 21 very soon.”

Burgers, Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Fast Casual, News, Burger 21