Several elements are notable about the burger bar called Burger Theory that opened this month in Phoenix. One is that the restaurant is not just part of a new Holiday Inn complex; the concept is owned by Holiday Inn, a unit of InterContinental Hotels Group. And perhaps because it is sited within a Holiday Inn and needs to be attractive to as wide a clientele as possible, Burger Theory is the quintessential 21st-century burger bar with all the “hand-crafted and local” benefits we’ve seen become commonplace.
Since 2014 Holiday Inn has opened Burger Theory restaurants in several major markets, including Atlanta, Houston, Indianapolis and Tampa. And the idea of a three-meal burger restaurant apparently has been so successful that Holiday Inn earlier this year opened one under the Stock Burger Co. name in its new hotel in Brighton, England.
Breakfast isn’t available at many burger bars but it’s a must-have meal at mid-scale hotels, so 3,600-square-foot Burger Theory serves up morning meals seven days a week between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. The menu has the expected mix of egg dishes, omelets, pancakes and waffles. But no breakfast burger.
The Phoenix lunch/dinner menu describes itself this way, hitting all the burger-bar hot buttons: “Our menu uses new flavors to reinvent classic dishes, and offers guests customizable options to excite their taste buds and create the perfect meal. A proprietary beef blend in our specialty burgers with a Create-Your-Own menu offering 4,320 possibilities. Signature house-made mini-desserts, served in individual mason jars. A selection of 30+ local, regional and classic craft beers. Our open and innovative layout meets casual rustic design to create a fun, inviting, and lively atmosphere where guests can socialize and unwind.”
Build-your-own burgers start at $9 ($13 for a double) and can be the “proprietary beef blend” (a mix of Angus chuck, brisket and short rib), turkey, chicken breast or veggie. Beef patties are one-third pound. Signature burgers include a $9 ($13 double) BT House (American cheese, grilled onion, lettuce, pickles and KGB sauce), a $10 ($14 double) Farm Fresh (portobello mushroom, grilled onions, roasted red peppers, lettuce, goat cheese) and others.
For those who don’t want a burger, options include a $24 House Rib-Eye, $10 BLT Clubwrap, $9 Crispy Fish Sandwich and $12 Fish Tacos. The full bar specializes in local-bran craft beers, with 12 on draft and 24 in bottles.
Holiday Inn’s Stock Burger Co. restaurant in Brighton takes a hip, local-sourcing positioning. According to its menu “We genuinely care where all our stock comes from. The beef in our burgers is all UK-reared Glenarm Shorthorn beef. From farms we trust. We keep a wide stock of great beers, including local brews from people we know.”
The 146-seat (plus terrace) Stock Burger Co. isn’t a three-daypart concept. Its menu offers BYO burgers (beef, chicken or veggie patty) and its list of set burger choices (each with a suggested beer pairing) is longer than Burger Theory’s. The signature Stock Burger (£8.50/$12.21) has Monterey-Jack cheese, red onion, tomato, pickles and lettuce house Stock Burger Co. Sauce. The restaurant also has created a Stock Burger Co. Craft Beer Sauce that is used on the £10.50 Craft Beer Classic burger. Other choices are a Breakfast Burger, Buffalo Chicken, Pulled Pork Brisket and an all-beef hot dog. Beef and pork ribs are available as well, as is a 10-oz. rump (sirloin) steak. And yes, desserts here are served in Mason jars.
Like Burger Theory, the Stock Burger Co. layout has the prominent central full-service bar that is becoming mandatory for many new urban burger concepts.
Holiday Inn isn’t the only lodging company to recognize that burger bars work well as dining anchors. Westin Hotels & Resorts has been opening a three-daypart concept called Relish Burger Bistro. The latest, with a menu claiming a Kobe beef signature burger, opens in April in the Westin-Waltham-Boston hotel in Waltham, Mass.
And speaking of unlikely companies getting into the burger arena, CNBC reported yesterday that Chipotle Mexican Grill has filed for a trademark on “Better Burger” and confirmed that it may want to try its hand at burgers.
A Chipotle spokesman told CNBC, “We have two non-Chipotle growth seeds open now—ShopHouse and Pizzeria Locale―and have noted before that the Chipotle model could be applied to a wide variety of foods.”
Chipotle has opened 15 ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen locations in five years and seven Pizzeria Locales since 2013. About three openings a year for both. So if Chipotle does enter the burger category—and that seems unlikely to be soon given its current sales and reputation difficulties—Shake Shack, Smashburger and others are probably safe.