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With the recent flood of US casual dining brands crossing the water to the UK, Laurence Pugh, Associate Design Director at
Caulder Moore interviewed Tim Lowther MD at Smashburger to talk about his experience and his latest successful launch.

 
 
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What were the initial challenges of bringing an American brand to the UK casual dining market?

Moving to the UK market hosted a few challenges, the main one we faced was making the Smashbuger offering competitive and premium in what is considered one of the most competitive ‘better burger’ markets in the world. We had to make sure that everything from the logo to the restaurant environment was ‘premiumised’ for the UK consumer in order to stand out from the crowd.


What excited you most about the potential for the brand here in the UK?

What makes Smashburger unique is our cooking process - our process of smashing our 100% British Beef on to a hot buttered grill, sealing in the juices to create the juiciest patty and burger. It is our speciality, and we are really excited to bring that to the UK customer. We think that the potential for growth in the UK is huge and we intend on growing our brand through our innovation in our burger making process and flavour combinations.


How do you think the consumers in the two markets differ?

The US has a much wider set of competition (from low to high end burger brands) and are used to a different standard of burger. In the UK, the market is heavily focused on premium better burgers and high standard fast-causal eateries - the expectations of our US and UK customers are different in that respect.


How did you align the Smashburger brand and communication to UK market and why was it felt important to tailor to UK audience?

It was important for us to keep the brand essence - this including the brand story, our unique cooking process and our menu. What we altered was the way in which we presented it to the UK market - Caulder Moore lead us in redesigning the Smashburger logo, emphasising the ‘smash’ in reference to the process, and keeping the ‘burger’ part of the logo thin, as a visual nod to the burgers themselves.  Caulder Moore also helped us bring our American roots into the UK market in our restaurant environment, bringing design inspiration from the meatpacking district.


Tell us more about the specially created "UK burger" and how this came about?

In the US they have a local burger for each state, in our move over to the UK we decided that it would be a great idea to have a selection of UK burgers! For now we have just the one called the Stilton Stack- It is made with traditionally British ingredients such as English chutney, smoked bacon, Stilton cheese and our 100% British Beef.


How do you think Caulder Moore bought the brand & environment to life and what are your favourite design signatures that reflect the brand’s personality?

We love the new logo - we really feel it encapsulates what the brand is all about and sums us up to a T! Caulder Moore did an amazing job in working with our brand and translating our vision into the premium UK burger market - everything from the instore graphics that show our story and cooking process, to the packaging and other interior details in the restaurant. 

 

What are the biggest influences on current UK burger market that have informed your thinking?

Our competitors within the UK ‘better burger’ market were a big influence – all have very high standards in terms of brand experience and in their restaurant environments so in our UK restaurant we premiumised our offering (in terms of branding, our restaurant environment, our packaging) in order to stand out from the crowd.


What were the key points of difference from other burger brands?

Our key point of difference is our cooking process. We start off by brushing the grill with unsalted clarified butter; we then add only the highest standard certified 100% British beef to the grill, which is then smashed, locking in the juices to create our signature burger. We pride ourselves in only using the freshest ingredients, never frozen, which includes all of our garnishes and toppings.

How do you think Caulder Moore influenced the thinking of the US brand to its approach into the UK market?

We had a clear brief and vision for our first UK site, Caulder Moore helped us realise that by utilising their great knowledge of the UK fast casual market (and burger market), their insights into the UK consumer and extensive design expertise in the execution of our restaurant.


What are your future plans and do you think the brand has potential to travel to other European countries?

The UK is going to be our main focus for the next few years - we have just one restaurant in Milton Keynes but our goal is to open up to 35 over the next few years. In terms of Europe, it’s something for the future - but for each market we enter we would need to do more research into the consumers and competitive landscape and adapt our offering for that market accordingly.