Thursday, February 22, 2018
Business

Burger Monger looks to expand its market

Despite opening next door to a McDonald's, Burger Monger thrived for a first-year business, scoring almost $1 million in sales peddling Kobe beef burgers and hot dogs.

And sales are up 20 percent, so far, in year two.

"We learned up front that we don't need to be too afraid of McDonald's," said Jake Hickton, Burger Monger managing general partner. "I saw it as a location that already drew 1,500 burger lovers a day."

It helped that this new entry at 10412 N Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa scored highly in unscientific local best burger ratings on Yelp.com and urbanspoon.com, and took the top spot among 30,000 tampabay.com readers.

Now, Burger Monger's owners are eager to find out if their startup has the makings of yet another gourmet burger chain. The second location opens Monday at 1656 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. in Wesley Chapel with two more bay area stores to come within a year. The Monger is competing for real estate with locally spawned gourmet burger rivals Burger 21 and Square 1.

Tierra Verde resident Hickton, 52, brings a fine dining/prime steakhouse mentality to the fast casual-dining scene. From teenage busboy at the elegant, old Park Schenley in Pittsburgh, his career took him from Morton's, Capital Grille and Ted's Montana Grill to senior vice president of operations at Mastro's, a high-end steakhouse chain based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Partnered with Bob Slane, a former McKinsey consultant in California, Hickton launched Burger Monger here because of the market's reputation as a cradle of new restaurant chains like Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, Checkers, Beef 'O' Brady's and Melting Pot.

Burger Monger is too small to be required to post nutritional information. That's probably just as well since the hand-cut fries are cooked in artery-clogging beef tallow that McDonald's gave up for vegetable oil long ago. The beef is grain-fed Akaushi Kobe raised in Texas, a Japanese breed that's rated above USDA prime. The buns are egg and butter-richened Challah bread.

With an average check of $9.25, it's a bit pricier than Five Guys. But the topping list goes far beyond — seven choices of cheese including brie, three mustards, banana peppers, garlic sauce, chai chipotle chau and Monger sauce that tastes like Thousand Island dressing packed with some heat.

"If people think your burger is too healthy, they won't eat it," said Hickton, who nonetheless put salads and chicken sandwiches on the menu.

In another departure from the standard burger joint, Burger Monger carries wine and a choice of five to 10 drafts for the craft beer crowd.

Whither Winn-Dixie Texas private-equity firm Lone Star Funds completed its $560 million purchase of Winn-Dixie Stores, which has been merged with its Bi-Lo chain to create the nation's ninth-largest supermarket chain with 688 stores in eight southeastern states. Both chains will run as separate brands. Winn-Dixie CEO Peter Lynch steps aside April 4, and Bi-Lo president Randall Onstead takes over as CEO of the combined company that will be based in Jacksonville.

Among the unanswered questions: The future of Winn-Dixie's aggressive store overhauls that served to turn the chain around enough to be sold.

"Winn-Dixie's transformational stores are some of the best I've ever seen," Onstead said. "We are committed to completing the (17) in the pipeline."

Then there were two Brooklyn-born Grimaldi's Pizzeria, which specializes in coal-fired pizza, has signed a deal to be in Westfield Citrus Park mall this fall. Grimaldi's recently debuted in the bay area in Westfield Countryside mall in Clearwater. A third location may follow in WestShore Plaza in Tampa.

Mark Albright can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8252.

Comments
Hillsborough commissioners ask CareerSource chief to step down or be fired

Hillsborough commissioners ask CareerSource chief to step down or be fired

TAMPA –– Hillsborough County commissioners voted Wednesday to ask embattled jobs center leader Ed Peachey to either resign or face termination over concerns the agency inflated job placement numbers with the state. Chairwoman Sandy Murman said commis...
Updated: 7 hours ago
CareerSource jobs chief Edward Peachey could soon be out of work

CareerSource jobs chief Edward Peachey could soon be out of work

CLEARWATER — The heads of the Pinellas and Hillsborough jobs boards will hold emergency meetings in the coming days to consider firing president and CEO Edward Peachey. Jack Geller, board chairman of CareerSource Pinellas, and Dick Peck, chairman of ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
St. Pete's World Liquors sign will live on at new home

St. Pete's World Liquors sign will live on at new home

A local landmark for a half century isn't coming down for good.
Updated: 11 hours ago
Investor calls for Bloomin’ Brands to let Outback Steakhouse stand alone

Investor calls for Bloomin’ Brands to let Outback Steakhouse stand alone

TAMPA — A second activist investor is calling for a big shake-up at Bloomin’ Brands Inc. In a letter to Bloomin’s CEO, Barington Capital Group, a New York-based investment firm, urged the Tampa-based restaurant conglomerate to let ...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Uber unrolls new pool service that could drastically cut fare

A new way to Uber is coming to Florida, but the "Express Pool" feature is only rolling out in Miami and seven of other cities to start.That means Tampa Bay will have to wait and see if it will get access to Uber’s latest offering, which links riders ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Clearwater Beach named No. 1 in U.S. by TripAdvisor

Clearwater Beach named No. 1 in U.S. by TripAdvisor

A reigning champion for sand and sunshine, Tampa Bay is once again home to what’s been deemed the best beach in the country. Clearwater Beach was named the best beach in the U.S. for 2018 by the popular travel site TripAdvisor reclaiming the crown tw...
Published: 02/21/18
This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

This week food fests celebrate collard greens and Jewish foods

FIELD OF GREEN: COLLARD FESTOn Saturday you can devote your whole day to the beauty of collard greens. Well, that’s the jumping off point. Collards are the "central ingredient" at the Tampa Bay Collard Green Festival at St. Petersburg’s Historic Deuc...
Published: 02/21/18
Tampa Bay homes prices soar by double-digits in January

Tampa Bay homes prices soar by double-digits in January

Home prices soared in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties in January, the highest gains in several months. Prices for single family homes also rose in Hernando and Pasco as the shortage of available homes showed no immediate sign of easing. The bay a...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/21/18
Career Q&A: Nut allergy is a serious workplace concern

Career Q&A: Nut allergy is a serious workplace concern

Q: My manager has recently started eating nuts at her desk, which is located right next to mine. Unfortunately, I have a serious nut allergy, so any contact with them could produce a life-threatening reaction. Even foods which contain tiny pieces of ...
Published: 02/20/18
Yes, we have some bananas: Port Tampa Bay welcomes first shipment in 21 years

Yes, we have some bananas: Port Tampa Bay welcomes first shipment in 21 years

TAMPA — More than two decades after the last bunch arrived on shore, bananas are back at Tampa’s port. More than 3,900 pallets of Chiquita bananas from Ecuador arrived last week at the new Port Logistics Refrigerated Services warehouse.It was the fir...
Published: 02/20/18