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Smashburger goes big

Yesterday I was called out of a very important Cafe strategy meeting at the Fainting Goat to take a call from a fellow scribbler, up against a deadline at the Chicago Tribune and looking for a few words about local chain Smashburger. "Tell me," he said, "on a scale of one to ten with ten being In-N-Out and one being, like Burger King, how excited should we be [in Chicago] about Smashburger coming?"

Yeah, that's right.  Smashburger -- the little Colorado meat-candy chain that could -- has moved up to the bigs and (on the back of a recent pick as "Hot Concept" in Nation's Restaurant News) has started signing franchise agreements with fire-sale speed. Not long ago, the chain -- which started out as a single location on South Colorado Boulevard just two  years ago -- inked a deal with a couple of Dallas Cowboys to open thirty locations in and around Dallas. As of a couple weeks ago, Smashburger had 23 stores up and running in Colorado, Texas, Kansas and Minnesota; the Chicago deal will involve another eleven. According to NRN, that plan puts Smashburger on track to having two hundred stores operational in five years. I told the Trib food guy that he ought to be very excited.  NRN had it just right--Smashburger is a great concept and, at least here in Denver, it makes a damn fine cheeseburger. The trick now, though, will be to keep the same kind of quality I experienced back when I wrote about the first Smashburger in 2007, and extend it across the entire country. No small trick, that. And here's to hoping that Smashburger is up to the task.