Fatburger franchise coming

A burger chain with a history nearly as long as McDonald’s is coming to Gasoline Alley.

A burger chain with a history nearly as long as McDonald’s is coming to Gasoline Alley.

Fatburger is expected to open on the west side of Hwy 2, just south of Ricky’s All Day Grill, in November, confirmed Frank Di Benedetto, CEO of Frankie’s Burger Enterprises of Burnaby, B.C. Ivy Siu, who operates Red Deer’s two Ricky’s restaurants, will be the local franchisee.

Fatburger got its start in Los Angles in 1948, said Di Benedetto, adding that it became a popular meeting place for African American musicians in the California city.

“To this day, there’s actually a real cool music legacy associated with Fatburger.”

He said its name reflected the popularity of the word “fat,” as in “fat cat” and “fat city.”

In fact, pointed out Di Benedetto, Fatburgers’ burgers — which are made from AAA Angus Alberta beef — are relatively lean. The restaurant also serves such items as veggie burgers, turkey burgers, lettuce wrap burgers, chicken sandwiches and salads.

Di Benedetto brought Fatburger to Canada in 2005, where it operates as a subsidiary of Ricky’s All Day Grill Restaurants, which Di Benedetto also controls. Outlets currently exist in the four western provinces, with eight more scheduled to open this year — including one in Toronto.

“By December, we’ll have 45 Fatburger locations opened in Canada, with probably anywhere between 12 to 14 that are scheduled to open in 2015 in different parts of Canada.”

A real estate and franchise development team has been set up in Ontario to push growth in that province, as well as in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces, said Di Benedetto. His goal is to open 10 to 15 new restaurants a year.

Internationally, there are about 45 Fatburgers in some 31 countries, he said. This number is expected to grow as well.

“There are about 300 locations in the pipeline that will open internationally just over the next five years.”

Di Benedetto, who is franchisor for Canada only, has no doubts why the chain is growing.

“We’re definitely the best burger place, all-around.”

In addition to an extensive and varied menu that shuns frozen meat, Fatburger offers a trendy decor, open kitchens, upbeat music and even serves alcohol.

“What Fatburger really is is a fast-paced, high energy burger restaurant,” said Di Benedetto. “It’s not fast food.”

The Red Deer outlet will be about 2,500 square feet, with seating for around 75. It will offer drive-through service, something that’s rare for Fatburger but deemed suitable for Gasoline Alley, said Di Benedetto.

He anticipates that the Red Deer Fatburger will employ 25 to 30 people, including 10 to 12 full-time.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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