Last December, the 22-year-old Shula Steakhouse enterprise entered the quick-service space when it launched Shula Burger, a fast-casual spot eager to differentiate itself from other better-burger concepts.
The concept’s burgers blend brisket, short rib, and Black Angus beef chuck, and the menu includes other novel dishes, like the ahi tuna burger, and sommelier-suggested wine pairings. These upscale options position Shula Burger more as a gourmet fast casual, says vice president of corporate development Bill Herman.
Later this month, the upstart eatery will open its second location in the Tampa International Airport, followed by additional units in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Delray Beach, Florida.
Herman explains how it’s leveraging the fame of the fine-dining Shula brand.
What led Shula into quick service?
When the economy started collapsing and full-service took it on the chin, we noticed people cutting back on dining out. Yet quick service had an uptick and was doing well. For years we had been discussing a burger concept and wanting to diversify ourselves. The economic climate was the real catalyst putting the idea into motion.
How are you leveraging the well-known Shula brand?
In the Islamorada store, we have a storyboard in the restaurant that explains that we’ve been in the beef business since 1989. It’s who we are. We’re taking advantage of our expertise as a steakhouse company and transferring that into the burger venue.
Beyond that, the Shula brand has been around for more than two decades and we’re present in 15 states. We’re going to cross-promote Shula Burger in our existing restaurants. We’re certainly not just starting a restaurant business without taking advantage of what we have and what we’ve already done.
What is “The Don”?
We wanted to have a signature item, much as we do at our steakhouses with the 48-ounce Club. Coach Don Shula (the operation’s namesake and the winningest coach in NFL history) loves a good burger, and he’ll also eat a hot dog whenever he can, so we thought about combining the two. The Don is a burger and a hot dog on a brioche roll. It’s unique and it’s high quality—just what we wanted.
What’s next for Shula Burger?
Selling territories and individual units; our initial goal was to have 100 stores under development within five years. With strong early returns, we’ve since revised that and now hope to have 150–200 under development or opened within that five-year period.
With the infrastructure already in place, we believe this concept will overtake our existing full-service operations. The end goal is to have several hundred across the country.
By Daniel P. Smith