Mesa Grill, Gato, Bar Americain. These are some of the restaurants Bobby Flay has opened in his decades-long culinary career and, as he describes them, “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 the concept he’s grown to 17 restaurants and counting. “I’m really just a burger guy, that’s what I want to eat,” says Flay, speaking this morning at the Restaurant Finance & Development Conference in Las Vegas. Cheeseburgers are what he craves after a long night in the kitchen and are at the core of Bobby’s Burger Palace, the restaurant he launched in 2008 and which is poised for rapid expansion following Flay’s announcement today that he’s going to start franchising and licensing the fast-casual concept. That first licensing deal is already done, an agreement with Concessions International to open a Bobby’s Burger Palace location on Concourse B in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in 2018. “We’re going full steam into the licensing and franchising business,” says Flay, adding he expects the Atlanta airport location to do “$7, $8, $9 million annually” and serve as a prototype of what’s to come. The creation of Bobby’s Burger Palace “comes from a place of passion,” says Flay, not because he saw a particular hole in the marketplace. Passion is a key ingredient for the high school dropout-turned-celebrity-chef, who notes while he has a great marketing platform in the Food Network, he’s happiest when he gets to put on an apron and work in the kitchen. He’s “1,000 percent hands-on” with Bobby’s Burger Palace, and later tells me it’s that intimate level of involvement that gives his concept an advantage in the competitive better burger market. “Research and development begins with me,” says Flay of creating and evolving the Burger Palace menu, which is known for its “crunchified” option to have any burger served with crunchy potato chips on top. “I know the product is going to stand up to any scrutiny. My name gets people to pay attention but the product, to me, speaks for itself. “Ultimately we’re going to win the war because we’re better.” Flay stresses that part of the reason he’s been so successful is because he’s built a strong team, including longtime business partner Laurence Kretchmer, and he intends to do the same as he brings in franchise partners. “We’re looking for the top tier restaurant groups to do deals,” he says. “We have so much opportunity in front of us.” Source: Franchise Times.

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