On April 2, Smashburger opened its first international location in Kuwait. The opening is the first of many international stores for the Denver-based burger brand, which plans to bring stores to Canada, Latin America, and the Middle East later this year.

“We saw it as a natural evolution of the Smashburger brand,” says president Greg Creighton. “We’ve always had our sights set on being a global better-burger brand. From a couple years ago, that was always our deal.”

Beyond Kuwait, Creighton says the brand is targeting Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar for expansion in 2012. Also in the mix are a store in Canada, planned for May, and an opening in Central America in the third quarter.

“We got inquiries from all over the world, talking about Smashburger, inquiring about our international expansion plans,” Creighton says. “So it was really a two-way street. We were interested, and we were also being pulled to expand internationally.”

The Kuwait restaurant, located in The Village, Abu Al Hasaniya, is the first of 23 franchise locations planned for the area. One or two more are planned to open by the end of 2012, Creighton says.

With so many countries available for Smashburger to expand into, Creighton says Kuwait was chosen because of its franchise partnership with Georgetown Advisors, a Kuwait-owned development firm that specializes in culinary concepts.

“The economies over there [in the Middle East], they’re doing better than others,” he says. “It seemed like a great spot for us to start and put a flag in the ground internationally.”

As is tradition, Smashburger Kuwait unveiled a locally inspired burger, created specifically to appeal to customers in each new market. The Kuwait burger has 100 percent Halal Angus beef topped with pepper cheese, hawaij grilled jalapenos, labneh, baby spinach, tomato, and cucumber on a spicy chipotle bun.

As the Smashburger brand approaches its five-year anniversary in June, Creighton says international expansion has been exciting, humbling, and practical for the young concept.

The brand plans to open 50–70 units within the U.S. this year, bringing its national total to more than 200.

By Sonya Chudgar

Burgers, Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Growth, News, Pizza, Smashburger