Frank Di Benedetto oversees nearly 45 Fatburger restaurants in Canada. His latest, which officially opens in Gasoline Alley tomorrow, could be in one of the best locations.
“We’re thrilled to be here,” said Di Benedetto on Wednesday during the soft opening of the Fatburger and Buffalo’s Express restaurant.
“This is really smack in the middle of Calgary-Edmonton — sort of like Dallas-Houston. There’s a 250,000 trading population that encompasses Red Deer.
“We think our placement here is superb, and will certainly lend itself to major highway exposure.”
In fact, said the president and CEO of the Ricky’s Group of Family Style Restaurants — which owns the Fatburger and Buffalo’s Express, Ricky’s restaurant and ABC County Restaurant brands in Canada — the project just south of the Gasoline Alley Ricky’s All Day Grill has been in the works for four years.
“Once we knew that there was an outside chance that we could do a land assembly undertaking adjacent to our Ricky’s, we stopped any other thought consideration for any other location in Red Deer.”
The franchisees of the new Fatburger and Buffalo’s Express are Ivy Siu and her husband Stephen Siu, her brother Michael Tong, and her parents Kin and Cecilia Tong. The family also owns Red Deer’s two Ricky’s All Day Grills, and plans to open another Ricky’s in the northwest part of the city early in 2016.
Di Benedetto opened the first Fatburger in Canada 10 years ago, but the restaurant chain actually dates back to 1948, and a Mr. Fatburger in Los Angeles. It was renamed Fatburger four years later, and subsequently expanded to other locations in California and beyond.
Today there are nearly 275 Fatburgers, including 22 in Alberta. The chain is also common in British Columbia, with new locations popping up quickly across Canada.
Di Benedetto pointed out that the restaurant’s name is based on the expression “fat,” which in the 1940s and 1950s was used to denote success — as in “fat cat” or “fat city.”
Fatburgers’ menu actually includes gluten-free, low carb lettuce-wrap burgers; veggie burgers, turkey burgers with real cranberry sauce, grilled chicken sandwiches, sweet potato yam fries and salads.
Its burgers are made with Alberta AAA beef and range in size from four-ounce patties to the 1 1/2 pound Triple Kingburger.
On the Buffalo’s Express side of the menu, there are wings and tenders with a choice of 13 sauces.
Dessert options include hand-scooped milkshakes made with real high-butter fat. Draught and bottled beer are served, as are margaritas and other alcohol-based drinks.
“Fatburger is actually the forerunner and the original premium burger joint,” said Di Benedetto, describing how quality and service are emphasized.
“We’re good at knowing what consumers want, and what consumers want is high quality and variety.”
Once customers place their orders, he said, they are treated like they would be in a full-service restaurant.
“Fatburger is really a fast-paced hamburger restaurant.”
The new Gasoline Alley Fatburger and Buffalo’s Express consists of 2,450 square feet and has seating for 64, as well as take-out service. Advance online ordering is in the works for all restaurants, said Di Benedetto, and should be available within a year.
Hours at the Red Deer location are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week.