Griddle and Shake it all about

Griddle and Shake founder Ed Halls
08/05/2017 - 07:30
UK burger concept Griddle & Shake opened its first site in November with a plan to stand out from the herd by focusing on choice, value and provenance. With the burger market expected to grow from £2.9 billion to £3.3 billion by 2019, Andrew McClean speaks to founder Ed Halls to find out how he stays ahead of the game.

The Nottingham-based ‘build your own burger’ concept allows guests to tailor their meal with ingredients that are right in front of them. “We’re all about choice and customisation at really good value,” Ed Halls says. “You can see what you’re getting and you’re not just choosing off a list. You can see the tomatoes, and look at the homemade relish or bacon marmalade. It’s so much more engaging and involving."

Before turning his attention to burgers and shakes, Halls worked for Marcus Wareing at the two Michelin-starred Petrus, was a private chef for the head of the British Army, ran a gastro pub, and opened The Clock House Café in Nottinghamshire. This all gave him the knowledge, experience and confidence to launch Griddle & Shake.

He looked at the emerging ‘better burger’ market and felt he could improve it. “I thought, ‘I can take the skills I have as a chef to make the food better, take my passion for great service to make sure that every guest that walks through the door has a wonderful time, and I think I can do it without charging a fortune and offer better value’,” he explains.

All the beef, chicken and pulled pork on the menu carries the Red Tractor mark and the efforts to be sustainable also stretch to the packaging, with no plastic used in any of the takeaway milkshake cups.

Right up alongside the meatier options on the menu is the tempeh burger (a soy bound and seasoned burger). This is a vegan option that Halls believes he is the first to offer in the UK. He created the burger out of a lump of tempeh his girlfriend had brought home from a health store. Following some research, he couldn’t find a provider and so contacted the company. One of their partners has been making them into burgers for Griddle & Shake since.

“A lot of the places you go, you get a real lip service to vegetarian food,” Halls says. “We must’ve eaten our way through dozens of standard bean and soy burgers, processed breadcrumbs, and so on to Five Guys who don’t even do anything. I just thought, ‘that wasn’t good enough’. If we’re a business about choice, about customisation, we can’t be disingenuous to anybody.”

The inclusivity doesn’t stop at the burger either. Vegan shakes, such as the dairy-free chocolate milkshake, are available and priced alongside regular milkshakes. “You can go to certain places and have a gluten-free whatever, but you have to pay a pound more. We’ve built this into our price structure so we’re not going to punish people if they’re coeliac,” Halls explains.

With American brands like Five Guys, Smashburger and Shake Shack opening at a rapid rate in the UK, Halls has found it challenging opening in a busy burger market.

“We have to get it right every time because we’re a small, independent business and we have to make sure that our revenues don’t hit below our expenditure. A very simple approach, I guess, but one we have to live or die by ultimately. So I think we have to be careful that we exceed peoples’ expectations, and the quality is brilliant, the value is even better and that we do make a difference.”

However, he isn’t deterred by the competition and has an ambition to grow the concept. A Crowdfunder campaign is underway, offering rewards for investment. “We’ve made sure all of the rewards of the Crowdfunder campaign are going to outdo the amounts that people are paying. So if someone puts in £25, £50 or £100 they get 20%, 30%, 40%, 50% more in terms of value of the reward.”

The Griddle & Shake growth plan is ambitious, but the plan is for a number of sites in one region before attempting a nationwide roll out. “I think that consolidation of this restaurant will come over the next six months and we would use the following six months to look for site number two,” Halls says. “Before we can get anything really substantial, I think people are looking for a multi-site business that is proof of concept. Once we get to that stage the expansion will ramp up. It’ll take a while to get to two and three, but I imagine by year five we’ll have gone through that and be looking at a roll out plan to end up at hopefully 15 restaurants.”

In the meantime, Halls will ‘just try and do what we do everyday brilliantly.’ He concludes: “We really do give something that nobody else does. I don’t know of any other burger restaurant in the UK that has the process we have with the food provenance and the same value.”

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