BEIRUT: Beirut’s gourmet burger restaurant BRGR Co. was ready to talk expansion Monday night at a small event showing off its redecorated Ashrafieh branch. BRGR Co. also has another Beirut location, in the Downtown shopping district, as well as one in London’s Soho neighborhood. Chef Hussein Hadid confirmed plans for new branches in London and potentially a first in the United States. Hadid has also been busy putting together a menu for a new Beirut franchise called PIZZA Co., a pizza-centered version of the BRGR Co. concept.
Thin-crust, Italian-style pizza, baked in a wood-burning brick oven, would likely be the basics of the new restaurant, Hadid said.
The style of pizza is similar to competitors Margherita and Olio. But he’s interested in adding the company’s typical gourmet flair, Hadid said.
For example, the feature Monday night was a truffle burger that had shavings of the rare fungus atop melted cheese. The restaurant has also splashed truffle oil into its parmesan-covered fries and mac and cheese.
BRGR Co. was also a pioneer in trying to perfect the optimal patty temperature. Each size comes with a recommended doneness that marketing manager Amy Madi said their cooks were reluctant to defy.
“It will be a trendsetter, not the typical pizza we have. I’m bored of that,” Hadid said about the future restaurant. There will be classic Margherita, different specialty pizzas and pastas. He imagined whimsical specialties like a Lebanese mankousheh-inspired pizza.
Hadid, who made a midcareer move from finance to food, was hesitant to put specific dates on any of BRGR Co.’s new projects, though Madi was optimistic the ventures would be well underway by the end of the year.
In the British capital, it has faced a lot more competition than in Beirut, with more outlets grilling up specialty burgers, Hadid said.
“It’s going well in London. It’s a very competitive market. We’re hoping to expand if everything goes to plan, if there are no hitches,” he said. “London has lots of potential, but we have to be careful.”
If two-dozen gourmet burger joints in London seemed competitive, BRGR Co. will have its work cut out in Manhattan, where management has its eye set next. It sounds strange for Lebanon – for all its culinary delights – to be exporting burgers back to the food culture from whence they came. But Hadid – who used to live in New York – was already pondering outlets in other states.
BRGR Co. puts a lot of emphasis on its beef. In Lebanon, the branches import Angus steaks from Australia. In London, BRGR Co. relies on beef from Scotland, and Hadid expected it would use American beef in New York.
Management prefers importing meat in Lebanon because of issues of hygiene and consistency in the local meat industry.
Madi said that when authorities found warehouses full of expired and rotten food, BRGR Co. benefitted from a customer base weary of eating where local meat was served.
“It actually helped business for us.”