Umami Burger

Adam Fleischman found fast success in the burger business by flattering his customers as much as feeding them, writes Frank Bruni in The New York Times (12/17/13). What Adam understood was that "young diners of limited means craved distinctive restaurant experiences every bit as much as older, wealthier, people did, and that they would eagerly channel that hunger toward the likes of pork buns, tacos, even doughnuts.” He also realized that they "wanted to feel adventurous, erudite," and so he "indulged their desired sophistication."

Adam began with a Japanese concept known as ‘umami,’ which is defined as "a savory deliciousness apart from salty, bitter, sweet and sour." He turned that idea into a brand – the Umami Burger – by using "a special powder that smacked intentionally of advanced culinary science, and it, along with other splashes and accessories for the burgers," such as "shiitake, porcini, Parmesan, miso, soy sauce, fish sauce, and kelp. He even gave each burger a tiny architecture and plenty of color and served it alone on white china, the better to be photographed for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram."

"With Umami Burger, he demonstrated that a seemingly saturated market sometimes harbors unoccupied niches, unmet needs. While you could get venerated burgers in plenty of fast-food joints and in upscale restaurants that did fancy riffs, it wasn’t as easy to find a carefully made, determinedly original burger at a casual place with prices and a style of service between those poles." Adam launched Umami Burger just five years ago, with $40,000 and a single restaurant. Today, he has 20 restaurants, "with many more to come," and 2013 revenues of "about $50 million."

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