CaliBurger is moving into Canada with the tagline: “We’re a technology company that happens to sell really great burgers.”
While burgers are always a draw, franchise partner Pete Crouse said a big part of the brand focuses on customer experience, specifically with technology.
There are charging stations, the ability to preorder from a smartphone and a video wall made up of nine 47-inch televisions.
Not only will these TVs display passive content, such as scenes depicting the California lifestyle and menu shots, but they will display the leaderboard for in-house interactive gaming.
“The whole idea is: is there a way to stay on the forefront of all the technology that millennials are looking for right now and to make that an offering in the store,” explained Crouse.
Pong Gaming Studios is developing games for CaliBurger’s guests to play on mobile phones, such as 21 Fries, a foodservice spin on Blackjack, and a CaliBurger-themed bingo, Lunchingo.
The Vaughan Ont.-based gaming and technology company owns the Canadian rights, with the exception of British Columbia.
“It’s a QSR, fast casual experience that is going to be highlighted or enhanced by the fact that there is a video wall in each of the stores and you are going to be able to interact with the video with your mobile phone,” he said.
“Playing in large audiences where people are just trying to be the Number 1 person on the leaderboard, that’s the phenomenon of audience gaming right now.”
The first Canadian location is slated to open the week of Feb. 8 near Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. The 2,500-square-foot restaurant seats about 40 guests.
The company’s co-founders grew up in California with In-N-Out Burger and the menu is admittedly similar. In fact, when the company first opened overseas in China, In-N-Out took legal action over trademark infringement.
CaliBurger renamed its burger and fry offerings as a result. CaliBurger also serves spiked milkshakes and beer.
While the goal is to open a flagship store in Toronto, Crouse said the brand’s target demographic of post-secondary students makes cities like Hamilton and Kingston viable options as well.
The price point for a combo is about $10.50, falling in between the value and premium burger categories.
Following the opening of two corporate locations in Ontario, Crouse said the plan is to offer franchising in priority markets, namely, Ontario, Quebec and Alberta.
At last year’s Interactive Customer Experience Summit, Crouse heard from large established chains about the challenges to incorporating more technology.
“They all want to jump on the technology bandwagon, but they’ve got such legacy systems that in order to actually install all this stuff and bring it forward, it’s such a pricey venture for them and it would be on the backs of the franchisees,” he explained.
“So we think we’re in a pretty interesting place right now; as we build these stores we’re able to retrofit them for the technology experience,” Crouse added.
The first North American CaliBurger opened in Seattle in October and there are locations slated to open Vancouver as well as Pasadena and Baltimore. Reyaz A. Kassamali, president and chief executive officer of K Franchise Systems, is rolling out the brand in British Columbia.
The first CaliBurger in that province is slated to open in the spring at 830 Thurlow St., Vancouver.
“It’s really going to start to roll in 2016,” said Crouse.
Source Kristen Smith, Canadian Restaurant News
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