Bobby Flay’s Burger Chain Gets A New Launch

Michael McGill spent the last four years as an ex pat in Indonesia, working for a confectionery company and a lifestyle retail brand there. The former Cold Stone Creamery and Krispy Kreme executive is now president of Bobby’s Burgers, the second attempt by celebrity Chef Bobby Flay to launch a franchised burger concept.

Flay’s first such franchise, Bobby’s Burger Palace unveiled at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference in 2017, failed to take off, in part because it was too big and had a too complicated menu. “We were able to take the key learnings from Bobby’s Burger Palace and scale it down,” McGill said in an interview at the 2022 conference.

Way down. Bobby’s Burger Palace was 6,000 square feet. The initial version of Bobby’s Burgers is 400 square feet and has only seven signature sandwiches.

McGill said it’s doing well in Caesars Palace, Harrah’s and Paris casinos in Las Vegas. A site in Harrah’s in Atlantic City is open, and one is in the works for the new wing of the Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, with operating partner The Grove.

A Bobby’s Burgers in Yankees Stadium in New York, where Flay was “born and bred,” is also shining after its second season, McGill said. He’s rolling out the franchise program now, which includes four models and a cost of investment ranging from several hundred thousand dollars to $1.5 million.

Mesa Grill, Gato, Bar Americain. These are some of the restaurants Flay has opened in his decades-long culinary career and, as he described them in a Franchise Times article in November 2017, “they’re all high-end,” with per-person check averages hovering around $60. But it’s Flay’s love for a greasier, cheesier—and cheaper—menu item that inspired Bobby’s Burger Palace.

“I’m really just a burger guy, that’s what I want to eat,” said Flay at the time. Cheeseburgers are what he craves after a long night in the kitchen and were at the core of Bobby’s Burger Palace. The concept grew to 17 restaurants but today lists only two.

Bobby’s Burgers is centered on the same idea, but one that’s evolved, McGill said. “Everybody knows who Bobby Flay is,” but maybe everyone can’t afford to try his expensive restaurants. “Bobby’s Burgers is an opportunity to try Bobby’s creative talent.”

McGill’s favorites include the Crunch Burger, big on texture with potato chips and Bobby’s Sauce on top. Or the Nacho Burger with queso, pickled jalapeno and blue corn tortilla sauce. Or the hand-battered onion rings and the “spoon-bending” milkshakes, especially pistachio.

“I like to create and grow things,” McGill said about why he took the president’s job. The chance “to work with someone as talented as Bobby and as passionate as Bobby, and the ability to work with people I have respect for, it’s an exciting opportunity.”

Bobby’s Burgers unveiled in December the name for its franchisor company, Intelligration Capital BB, along with a high-powered slate of investors and directors from the restaurant and hospitality world.

Intelligration Capital BB created the licensing deal with Flay and Laurence Kretchmer, co-founder and managing partner of the Bobby’s Burgers brand, which provided exclusive rights to franchise Bobby’s Burgers worldwide.

Dan Beem serves as chairman of the board, the company announced December 5. He is CEO of Hissho Sushi, overseeing the sushi concept’s growth to more than 2,400 units. Beem held C-level positions with Krispy Kreme, Cold Stone Creamery and Kahala Brands, and he recruited McGill.

Jeff Vinik, investor and adviser, owns the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment.

Investors and board members include Bill Allen, former CEO of Bloomin’ Brands, and Bill Pellicano, co-founder and executive board chair of PrimePay. Two principals at Arlington Capital personally own a small stake and are advisers as well.