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|Articles - July/August 2012|
|Monday, July 09, 2012|
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Even without eyeballing the books, Huffman and other restaurateurs know Little Big Burger is doing something right. Since the first location opened in September 2010, Camden and Poppe have opened two more locations in Portland — in the high-foot-traffic zones of Mississippi Avenue and Division Street — and one in Eugene. All locations have footprints of less than 1,500 square feet and lack drive-throughs or parking lots.
Camden and Poppe have two more locations in the works, in the South Waterfront district and on Northwest 23rd Street, which will add 20-plus jobs to the existing 40.
“We saw a gap,” Poppe says. “There are typical low-quality, cheap fast-food burgers and then a jump to higher-quality, expensive bistro burgers. There were very few providers of inexpensive, gourmet fast-food burgers.”
Similar models include Laughing Planet Cafe, Hot Lips Pizza and, on a larger scale, Burgerville and Chipotle Mexican Grill.
Joe Rapport, one of the owners of Joe’s Burgers of JoPa Hospitality Group in Portland, is in the process of opening a fourth Joe’s Burgers in the city. (The first location was a kiosk in Bridgeport Village.) While Joe’s burgers have thinner patties and can be topped with meat chili and American cheese, the model resembles Little Big Burger: a simple menu with some locally sourced ingredients.
“In the last few years, the pattern has shifted,” Rapport says. “People going out want to spend less per person.” He mentions his now-defunct restaurant 50 Plates as an example of what wasn’t working. “I had a restaurant in the Pearl that had great food and a good reputation, but not a lot of people were coming in the door.”
Joe’s Burger has been such a hit that Rapport turned his Northwest Grill, a midrange sit-down restaurant in Raleigh Hills that had been in business for nine and a half years, into one of the burger joints.
Profit margins for quick-service restaurants usually garner more than the 10% restaurateurs expect to make from upscale restaurants. But Rapport says 15% to 20% profits are “where everybody really wants to settle. If people are doing better than that, then God bless them.”
The four Little Big Burger locations average between 35%-40% profit margin, say its owners. “It was unexpected,” Poppe says. “I wrote the business plan with a conservative 20%,” Camden says. “We doubled it.”
Even without Little Big Burger-size profit margins, burgers are a reliable restaurant concept, says Scott Hume, who is editor of BurgerBusiness.com, which covers the burger industry nationwide.
“Burgers are not a trendy food; they’re a staple food,” Hume says. “In bad times you can sell $4 burgers, and in boom times you can sell $14 burgers.” The Chicago-based NPD Group recently reported that while the total number of restaurants in the U.S. declined between the fall of 2010 and the fall of 2011, the number of quick-service burger operations, both independent and chains, rose slightly.
The Portland area has followed the trend beyond Little Big Burger and Joe’s Burger, with places such as Killer Burger and Dick’s Kitchen, and new outcroppings of national chains such as Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and Boardwalk Fresh Burgers and Fries. But Little Big Burger stands out for its rapid expansion and huge profits, the result of a certain kind of mastermind.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY ROBERT MULLIN
Latest development in Nestlé plant saga sparks debate about the value of water.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY CHRIS NOBLE
The right sunglasses can protect your eyes and look cool at the same time. This being the 21st century, select shades are socially conscious, too. Portland brand Shwood uses wood and other natural materials and manufactures locally. Founded by Ann Sacks, the brand Fetch dedicates a portion of its profits to animal welfare. But whether you choose classic tortiseshell or aviator chic, please, shed the sunglasses when you walk in the door — and, of course, at night.
Thursday, May 28, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR
Reinventing capitalism. Office dumpster divers. Handprints versus carbon footprints.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY ANNIE ELLISON
Portland tech veteran Ben Berry is leaving his post as Portland’s chief technology officer for a full-time role producing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) aimed at first responders and the military. Berry’s AirShip Technologies Group is poised to be on the ground floor of an industry that will supply drones to as many as 100,000 police, fire and emergency agencies nationwide. He reveals the plan for takeoff.
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT
How conservation stimulates the local economy.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
While most categories of commercial real estate have performed well, one of the most robust has been apartment buildings.
Friday, May 08, 2015
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Hagfish may not have evolved much over the last 300 million years, but their protein-heavy slime promises advances in super-materials.
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