Hero Certified Burgers’ recipe for success begins with a 100-per-cent heritage Angus beef patty, topped with gourmet ingredients such as brie, crispy onions and cranberry sauce, wrapped in recycled paper. But, the meat of the company’s success in 2012 is attributed to a dedicated corporate office team and franchisee support.
“The development has really been within the infrastructure of the business and [within a drive to open] stores,” says John Lettieri, founder of the Toronto-based brand, which reached 47 units and $31 million in sales last year. “We put a whole human- resource department together in our head office and also for our franchisees.” The revamped head-office system educates franchisees on how to hire and treat their staff, giving formal expectations on how to operate the businesses.
It’s creating a strong foundation to support increased presence in high-volume markets, most notably, as the Hero burger became the official patty of the Air Canada Centre in Toronto last year. Growth is also prevalent in new ventures such as the launch of a food truck that caters to sporting events and corporate functions, a soon-to-open al fresco spot in Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto and a concession stand in the works at the Ricoh Centre, also in Toronto.
But, aside from catering to the masses of hungry sports fans, 2012 was also a year of reinvention. Some stores received technology upgrades, such as self-serve Coca-Cola Freestyle machines and digital menu boards that highlight the offerings. And, last January, the company introduced its new breakfast menu, which includes flatbread sandwiches, such as the egg frittata with cheddar cheese and the choice of Lettieri coffee ($4.29), latte or cappuccino ($6.79), or a beef-and-egg flatbread sandwich ($4.29).
After adding 14 new units in 2012, Lettieri is closer to his goal of opening 100 stores in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). By 2014, he plans to expand outside the GTA, eventually opening units south of the border; it’s a feat that would not be possible without a strong office team. “Our head-office team is focused and determined to put out an outstanding product to the public,” he says, adding the corporate hub is set to receive a new franchisee training centre. “The franchisees are happy with our system, and it seems to be working. We are increasing some of our multiple-store owners and more franchisees are buying second and third stores.”
It’s clear unit growth isn’t slowing anytime soon.