Looks like Burger Fest might have a new player next year. Meatheads, a fast-casual premium burger joint, will open its first Chicago location at 3322 N. Western Ave. by late September.
“We’re under construction now,” said Meatheads marketing manager Joe Sanders. Founded in 2007, Meatheads already boasts eight locations in Illinois, the majority in the Chicago suburbs. Owner Tom Jednorowicz is the former chief development officer for Potbelly’s, having grown that chain from nine restaurants to 100 in just four years.
Meatheads is taking a slower approach to expansion, choosing sites that suit its family-friendly model. “Roscoe Village is a very family driven neighborhood. That’s really what we cater to,” said Sanders, pointing to community programs such as Voracious Meatheads, which rewards youngsters with a free burger for every five books they read.
The quintessential American meal, burgers and fries have enjoyed something of a renaissance among diners of late, particularly in the premium field. According to food industry consultant Technomic, sales among “better-burger” chains — think Five Guys, Smashburger and Meatheads — were up nearly 21 percent in 2011, compared with less than four percent growth among their traditional fast-food counterparts. Where fast-casual operations differentiate themselves from brethren such as McDonald’s is in service — Meatheads brings the order to your table — and quality of ingredients, like Angus beef and fresh-cut fries.
“People are much more conscious about what they eat,” said Sanders. Along with its one-third and one-half pound patties, Meatheads offers patrons the option of building a chicken burger, and its menu includes sandwiches such as the ALT– avocado, lettuce and tomato. Parents can swap out fries for applesauce in the kids meal at no cost.
Of course, premium comes at a price. A burger, fries and drink will set you back $10 per person. And then they tempt you with the hand-dipped shakes.