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The New King of Burgers: The Rise and Rise of Betty’s Burgers Amid the Covid-19 Pandemic

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Australia’s hyper-competitive burger market is certainly a crowded menu, but one chain seems to have the right recipe.

With an endless combo of artisan meats, sauces and buns, Australia’s $ 9 billion burger market has become a mouthful.

There are the “big three” players: McDonalds, Hungry Jacks and Grill’d, while chicken-based challengers KFC, Porto, Nando’s and Red Rooster also scramble for your order alongside Carl’s Jr, Burger Project and Ribs & Burgers.

The run outside, however, is a small hut by the beach in Noosa Heads.

Betty’s Burgers and Concrete Co. may only have 39 stores across the country, but it was arguably the main player during the Covid pandemic.

The exquisite 1950s-themed restaurant chain has seen a meteoric rise since launching in Queensland seven years ago, growing steadily from a single outlet on the Sunshine Coast to a restaurant in nearly every state and capitals.

Her menu inspired a cult among fast food junkies, with Betty’s arrival in a new suburb, town or city. generally considered a news item.

Betty’s success is such that she has become the main source of money for parent company Retail Zoo – with burgers and fries far exceeding the sales contribution of the conglomerate’s best-known brand: Boost Juice.

Financial data filed with the business regulator this week showed that – despite pandemic lockdowns – Betty’s Burgers increased sales in 2021 by about 20% to $ 83.2 million, more than half of the figure for Total Retail Zoo business.

Encouraged by a take-out boom, six new Betty’s restaurants have been opened during the pandemic – including the first forays into Perth and Newcastle – while five more will open over the next four weeks.

Retail Zoo spent $ 6.5 million on Betty’s restaurants in 2021 – the best of all its food brands – and lost $ 16 million to the Betty’s network the year before.

Additionally, the company estimates that it can continue to open 12 to 15 restaurants each year until it hits around 150 – more than three times its current presence.

So what’s the problem ?

Betty’s menu is by no means extensive, with diners able to choose from a seemingly standard list of American-style “concrete” burgers, fries, shakes, and ice cream.

Sure, there’s booze available in-house, and the retro doo-wop-era decor is pretty fun – but one could also argue that these tactics were used by a litany of burger chains over the course of the last decade.

The response, according to Betty’s CEO Troy McDonagh, is actually nothing short of remarkable.

“It’s a simple and fresh product,” explains the Melbourne-based restaurateur.

“We did it from day one. We had the beauty of opening our first in a pretty nostalgic and iconic Noosa location, and we’re just trying to continue that.

“It doesn’t matter whether we are in Elizabeth Street, Melbourne or Forest Place in Perth’s CBD.”

Betty’s was born in Noosa Heads in 2014 after entrepreneurs David Hales, Nik Rollison and Michael Tripp spotted an opportunity in the local market for fresh, casual dining.

Coincidentally, the new restaurant was named after the iconic Betty’s Beach Burgers, a store previously run by the late local Noosa legend, Beatrice “Betty” Wallace.

Neither had an association, with Mr Hales telling the Sunshine Coast Daily in 2014 that his restaurant was named after his own grandmother Betty.

Regardless, the new outlet has become a local favorite and has quickly taken over the rest of Australia.

Within three years, private capital came knocking on the door and Betty’s Burgers was swallowed up by Melbourne’s Retail Zoo, run by Shark Tank star Janine Allis, and in turn funded by Bain Capital.

Most of Betty’s current 39 restaurants remain in the southeast corner of Queensland – including Brisbane, Gold Coast, Toowoomba and the Sunshine Coast – although outlets continue to expand in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, Canberra and Newcastle.

Mr. McDonagh says he considers Betty’s to be the best customer experience in food retailing.

“Our leaders are engaged, they know where we are going, they know that we are in a growing business, we are a growth brand… they argue that we have bought a product which is a simple and fresh product,” he said. -he declares. said.

“We’ve never tried to be more than just a fresh hamburger restaurant. We have released some nice milk rolls, the meat patties, the sauces that we make in house … the range of burgers has been eight to ten and hasn’t really expanded beyond that.

The rise of Betty’s is even more remarkable given the reported stagnation of the Australian hamburger market during a few tough years for food retailing.

Figures released by market data firm IBISWorld estimate that the Australian fast food hamburger market has declined 0.7% on average each year since 2016 and will decline 1% in 2021.

IBISWorld claims that it is currently an $ 8.8 billion industry, which was worth $ 9.5 billion at its peak in 2018, reflecting the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns, even as the use of food delivery apps is skyrocketing.

There’s more competition on the horizon too, and for Betty’s, that comes from a familiar source.

The Courier Mail reported last month that the original founders of Betty’s – including Nik Rollison – are about to launch a new retro hamburger restaurant called Slim’s Quality Burgers.

Like Betty’s Burgers, they plan to roll out their business across the country.

For now, McDonagh is focused on keeping Betty’s juggernaut.

There’s also a new lobster burger on the way this month.

“What I discovered is that there’s almost this transformation that happens when you walk into a Betty’s,” he says.

“People knew Surfers Paradise, they went to Noosa, they did it to Manly… It’s almost a vacation makeover, and every one of those breaks you have a classic burger. You have a chocolate milkshake.

“You have these 20 minutes where you could be anywhere in the world.”


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