Chicago, Illinois, July 18, 2012— Mustafa Yusuf, founder and owner of Toronto’s most dominant gourmet burger chain, has gained local stardom with his fast-casual concept, Big Smoke Burger. Since joining forces with Fransmart, the franchise development company behind booming brands such as Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Qdoba Mexican Grill, and Freshii, Big Smoke Burger has penetrated the US market with astounding force, most recently launching development in the ‘windy city’ of Chicago.
In addition to the five Toronto-based locations, Big Smoke has launched expansion in Chicago, with franchisee Anthony Fauci of Innovative Hospitality Concepts (IHC). Fauci, a seasoned restaurant owner with a background also in real estate and construction, initially purchased Big Smoke Burger rights for all of Manhattan, NY, and is now back for a second round with Big Smoke and the Fransmart team for an entirely new market in Chicago, signing a deal for an eventual 50 units in the two cities.
Fauci values Big Smoke’s distinguishing qualities - A menu that boasts unique Canadian indulgences like poutine, a dedication to locally sourced ingredients, and their current ranking as “Best Cheeseburger in Toronto”. It’s clear that Big Smoke holds a particularly unique and powerful niche in the artisan ‘better burger’ market.
Big Smoke’s financial model is also a massive selling point for Fauci. Generating over xxx xper square foot in sales, the Toronto-based stores have enjoyed a highly profitable expansion over the last two years. Fauci hones in on this brand as something that maintains an “eye on its customers. A brand that differentiates itself so powerfully from the rest of the burger pack—whether it’s with their unique sauces, their poutine, or their plain profitability—is a brand with a sustainable system. I know NYC and Chicago, and Big Smoke is tailor-made for these markets.”
CEO Mustafa Yusuf also demonstrates the same optimism that Fauci has for Chicago. Citing Chicago’s similarity to Big Smoke’s hometown of Toronto, he states that “the cities are about the same in their size, population, climate, economy, and lifestyle. I see Big Smoke thriving in Chicago as it already does in Toronto.”
Yusuf, a restaurant industry veteran who worked his way up the corporate ladder from busboy to CEO, wanted more than the frozen, pre-packaged patties typical of the “better” burger segment at the time. In a market now swamped with copycat brands, Big Smoke remains on the front line of the burger scene for their traditional Canadian quality. With fresh burgers, fresh poutine made from Ontario cheese curds, fresh signature sauces, and their company-wide ‘green’ initiatives, Big Smoke is here to stay.
Big Smoke Burger presents a refined approach to fast casual dining, offering gourmet handcrafted burgers made fresh daily using only the freshest, never frozen beef, as well as other unique protein options like chicken and lamb burgers. Their side dishes include the Canadian tradition – “poutine”, and their signature, homemade sauces and their practice of flame broiling give the burgers a delicious, distinctive flavor that sets them apart in the crowded burger segment.
Founded in 2007 by Mustafa Yusuf, a restaurant industry vet whose experience includes deep management experience with The Keg Steakhouse & Bar, Big Smoke Burger currently has 5 locations open in Toronto and is planning aggressive expansion throughout North America and select international markets. The concept was recruited by both HMS Host and Cadillac Fairview, two prestigious names in the retail services industry, for a travel plaza location on one of Ontario’s busiest highways as well as a prime spot in one of Canada’s largest malls.