Smashburger Cracks the Code on Menu Development


Menu development has become one of the most important operational aspects for fast-casual restaurants. But between sourcing consistent ingredients on a scalable level and ensuring top-notch distributors, it takes time, effort, and experience to do so efficiently.

So, we packed our bags for Denver and set out to talk to one of the pioneers of fast casual, who has been in the trenches of menu development for a long time: Tom Ryan, the chief concept officer at Smashburger, a concept that now boasts 350 locations around the world.

According to Ryan, menu development is a huge standout for consumers as their dining expectations evolve. “Food is becoming more and more topical; it’s becoming more and more integrated into people’s lifestyle, both at home and eating out,” he says. “And the demand of those customers and their discrimination is causing everybody in the industry to kind of up their game.”

By utilizing consistent, high-quality distributors, Ryan says Smashburger employees are able to focus more time on customer service and “smashing burgers perfect every time,” and less time being pressured to perform more and more internal prep.

“When we have builds that require constructed food, we would seek out high-quality vendors like Simplot to give us best-in-class ingredients that we can use,” says Ryan. “…And actually, they can do the job on this better than we can if we tried to do it ourselves.”