The rise of the posh burger: How London has fallen for Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Byron, Honest Burger, Five Guys and Shake Shack

Billy Ehrenberg
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The burger boom began before the downturn, and fought through it in style

We’ve all seen them: on busy streets and in trendy back alleys, London has been invaded by posh burger joints.

When did this invasion start? And who are the main protagonists? We’ve chosen five players in the influx and charted their progress in the capital. Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), Byron, Five Guys and Shake Shack. Although this list is far from exhaustive.

Recession proof burgers

The burger boom began before the downturn, and fought through it in style. Byron, the chain of our five with the most outlets in London (37) opened its first restaurant in Kensington in 2007. It opened another four in 2008 before going quiet until November 2009, when it began a steady flow of restaurant openings.

If we look at all the openings as a cumulative curve, there are a couple of plateaus in 2007-2008 and 2009-2010, but they are brief compared to the strong growth in the number of restaurants before and after.

Byron v GBK

When it comes to saturation, Byron and GBK are streets ahead of the rest. Both have individually more than the other three outlets on our list combined, and are fairly even in terms of real estate.

Burgers are big business. Back in 2013, Byron was bought by Hutton Collins partners for £100m, enough for over 10m burgers.

Whether there is enough room for relative newcomers to grow so much in an increasingly crowded marketplace remains to be seen. Honest Burger began opening its stores in 2011, at which point GBK and Byron had more than 20 restaurants each in London. Five Guys, which did not respond to our request for data, opened its first restaurant in 2013.

Prime real estate

The locations of the restaurants are illustrative of the struggle for hearts and stomachs. Honest has restaurants at locations where it has no completion from others in the big five, while Five Guys has been quick to move out of central London.

Posh burgers are here to stay

Another way to get a foothold in the competitive market is to go even posher. City A.M. recently reviewed Sackville’s, which serves £38 burgers.

And that’s not even the most expensive burger in London:

Chelsea restaurant Honky Tonk claimed to sell the world’s most expensive burger at £1,100. It featured a gold-leaf bun that brought to mind the Dome Of The Rock mosque in Jerusalem.

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