BurgerFi in growth mode as franchises multiply

By Justine Griffin, Sun Sentinel
7:40 p.m. EDT, March 27, 2012

In just about a year, BurgerFi has created a model for a deluxe burger chain that puts fast-food burgers in the rear view mirror.

The chain, which started in Fort Lauderdale, now has four South Florida locations, including one recently opened in Coral Springs. It recently announced another restaurant will be built across from the Galleria Mall on Sunrise Boulevard.

The casual, order-at-the-counter, concept is taking off, according to co-founders John Rosatti and Lee Goldberg, who are aggressively marketing franchises for expansion this year. To date, the company has sold 175 BurgerFi franchises across the country, Goldberg said.

“The whole idea came from the reincarnation of the hamburger,” he said. “We started where the others have left off.”

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More stores are coming to South Florida by the end of the year in Aventura, Boynton Beach and Plantation. Elsewhere, stores are in the works in Austin, San Antonio, and Pittsburgh and cities in North Carolina and Connecticut.

Goldberg and Rosatti own the original Lauderdale by the Sea restaurant, which opened on A1A and Commercial Boulevard in 2011 and a second restaurant that opened in Delray Beach last August. Each store is bringing in more than $2 million in annual revenue, according to company reports.

Goldberg, a former Wendy’s franchisee from New Jersey and Rosatti, an auto dealer originally from New York, worked with David Manero, the restaurant maven behind Vic & Angelo’s, DeVito South Beach, and the Office in Delray Beach, to get the chain off the ground. Manero is no longer with the company.

Those interested in owning a franchise will pay a $37,500 franchise fee and will need initial investment funds of $313,750 to $627,083, according to the company.

“BurgerFi is like the greatest hits of everything that’s really hot and trendy right now,” said Brian Connors, a culinary instructor at Johnson & Wales University in Miami. “The fast casual concept has taken off. People are willing to spend a little more for a quality product.”

BurgerFi sells all natural, free range Angus beef burgers and freshly cut potato fries. Hot dogs, custard, cupcakes, beer and wine are also on the menu. There are no freezers inside BurgerFi restaurants, Goldberg said.

The signature double-patty BurgerFi burger goes for $5.47, but customers can build a single burger for $3.97.

“My first impression was that this was a smart and sexy concept,” Connors said. “But because of the saturation in the burger market right now, I think business will start to slow soon.”

Competitors include other casual concepts like CG Burgers, Five Guys and Smashburger, as well as pricer places like Shula Burger, Chef Allen Susser’s Burger Bar and Rok Burger.

Ron Catronio from Coral Springs is a fan.

“I like the taste and the prices,” he said. “I like the casualness of the place.”

Plus it’s got a catchy name.

“People always think it’s a play of Wifi, which is much better than the actual story,” said Goldberg, who explained that BurgerFi “is short for burgerfication of the nation.”

jusgriffin@sunsentinel.com, 954-356-4528 or Twitter: @SunBizGriffin

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