Brett Scott is at it again. Two and a half years ago, Scott sold his majority ownership interest in the Richmond area all-you-can-eat CiCi’s Pizza chain. He was moments away from signing a deal to start a chain of Cheeburger Cheeburger restaurants in his native Texas when he decided he could do better on his own. So he returned to Richmond and started work on his new concept, BurgerWorks, which just opened in Short Pump. BizSense visited the restaurant to find out more about the plan Scott (pictured left in photo below) and Chris Golas cooked up. Below is an edited transcript.
Richmond BizSense: Why did you decide to start your own concept?
Brett Scott: After I sold CiCi’s, I spent that year recharging the batteries. I knew I wanted to do a custom burger shop. I looked at Cheeburger Cheeburger and Five Guys, but along the way I decided I can do as well as them, if not better.
RBS: The place feels like it is part of a nationwide chain. How did you accomplish that out of the gate?
BS: I hired a design firm, Vision 360 Design, out of Dallas. The goal when you walked in was to feel like you were in a polished franchise. The goal eventually will be to sell franchises. I didn’t want it to look like a mom-and-pop shop that had been thrown together.
RBS: What is the menu like?
BS: Chris came up with the menu. We have your classic burger but also free-range turkey and bison. Our beef is all natural, no antibiotics, Angus beef. It is a little more expensive but top notch.
When we feel ticket times are right, we will do a burger of the month with an alternative meat like wild boar or ahi tuna. We also have a veggie burger made with portabello, zucchini and squash. And we make our own French fries and onion rings.
We are waiting on our alcohol license now.
RBS: Five Guys say their success is built on keeping the menu extremely limited and simple. Why did you go the opposite direction?
BS: Not knocking Five Guys, but you are very limited. You got burgers and fries only and exclude a huge demographic: people who want to eat a little healthier and people who want beer or wine, for example. I wanted to have an option for everybody.
RBS: How did you get funded? What are your startup costs?
BS: It is me and an SBA loan. The restaurant has run about $575,000. Some that is in the design work, so we won’t have that cost on the next one. My goal was to take 2,700 square feet and open for less than half a million, so I went just a little over.
RBS: Was it challenging to get a loan?
BS: It is tough right now to get money, period. Even with an SBA loan, a certain portion is guaranteed by the government, but you still have to put in. I’m 30 percent invested and had to put my house up.
RBS: What made you choose this location?
BS: The restaurants I had in the past around business centers did much better because lunch was built in. I believe I-64 acts as a barrier for the Innsbrook crowd. Chipotle and Panera, which are next door to me, have another location two miles down the road. So I think it’s a good spot for capitalizing on the Innsbrook crowd.
I am the first one in this space, which has been empty since the center was built ten years ago. I’ve had numerous restaurant guys tell me they looked at this space but couldn’t get a deal done at the time.
RBS: You’ve mentioned expanding already. What is the plan for that?
BS: The goal, if we are successful here, is to build a second one down in Boynton Beach, Florida, where Chris is from, and build out both markets.
Then we can show that not only can we do it in Richmond but we can do it there, too. Then we have proven we are viable and repeatable.
We have already had people ask us about franchising, and we have only been open a week.
Al Harris is a BizSense reporter. Please send news tips to Al@richmondbizsense.com.