On his visits to Washington to see his daughter, a student at American University, food entrepreneur Tom Ryan would walk the streets in search of the perfect burger.
Despite the abundance of hamburger options — think Burger Joint, Shake Shack, Bourbon Steak, Kraze Burgers, to name just a few — Ryan still saw room for one more.
Ryan, 56, co-founder of a 230-store Denver-based hamburger chain called Smashburger, is planning to roll out 30 franchises here in the next five to seven years. The first store inside the District opened this month in Dupont Circle, following one a few months ago in Fairfax.
“Washington, D.C, is one of the most emerging, sophisticated food markets in the world right now,” Ryan said.
The guy knows food. He created the stuffed crust pizza at Pizza Hut. As worldwide chief concept officer at McDonald’s, he helped create everything from the McGriddle to fruit and yogurt parfaits.
Ryan said his Smashburger chain, which he started with a business partner, is a half lunch place, half date place. The stores, which can dim their lights at night to appeal to the more romantic minded, offer wine, beer or a Haagen-Dazs heart-stopper milkshake, and cost less than $500,000 to fit out.
“It is this special balance between the three things consumers care more about: time, money and experience.”
After mapping out the area for population density, real estate, lunch traffic and other factors, Dupont Circle was near the top of 40 locations.
“It’s daytime and nighttime densities are great,” he said of Dupont. “Restaurants work best where people live, work and play.”
With that in mind, he already has locations for the next five Smashburgers: Falls Church, Tysons Corner, Germantown, Bethesda and Gaithersburg. Then he is revisiting the city.
“We have the whole Adams Morgan mapped, but I cannot tell you when,” he said.
CertifiKid is heading south.
The Potomac-based daily deals family site founded and run by entrepreneur Jamie Ratner has purchased the assets of FamGrab, a similar site which began three years ago.
Ratner is starting CertifiKid’s Atlanta business with deals on a Disney On Ice show and a Wings Over North Georgia air show.
The Atlanta offensive follows Certifikid’s purchases of similar sites in Los Angeles and Chicago earlier this year.
“After our recent successful expansion to Chicago and L.A., and the numerous requests to open in Atlanta that followed, when the opportunity presented itself with FamGrab, we were confident that Atlanta was the right next stop for us,” Ratner said.
The mother of two trolled daily deals sites as an avid deal hunter, and then founded CertifiKid in 2010 to fill her own desire to get family deals. The company now has five full-time and 15 part-time employees.
Laytsonsville-based Ruppert Landscape acquired two North Carolina companies this past summer, increasing Ruppert’s headcount to 850.
The companies are Eco Scape and New River Landscape, both of Raleigh.
Terms were not disclosed.
Chief executive Craig Ruppert said the new businesses are in the company’s sweet spot because they are sandwiched between established Ruppert markets in Charlotte, Atlanta and Richmond.
Ruppert said his company targeted the Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill markets because of all the growth emanating from a university-rich region known as the “research triangle.”
“The research triangle is a vibrant, growing market, driven by education and biotech,” he said. “It is in our footprint.”
Morgan Stanley chief executive James P. Gorman offered a peek at his personal investment strategy at last week’s Economic Club of Washington luncheon. “We’re pretty boring,” Gorman began. “Partly because of the job I’m in, and partly because in life and in business, it behooves you to take catastrophic risk off the table. Once you take catastrophic risk off the table, you can do a lot of other things besides.” So he and his wife invest in municipal bonds mostly, and put money in one small biotech fund in addition to their large holding of Morgan Stanley stock. For the kids? Gorman bets on equities, backing companies all over the world because he assumes his children will live a long time and the global economy will improve.
When the California Public Employees’ Retirement System sold its four-plus percent stake in Carlyle Group stock earlier this year, it raised some eyebrows on Wall Street. But CalPERS, already a big investor in Carlyle’s portfolio funds, showed the Pennsylvania Avenue firm some love with a $547 million commitment to Carlyle’s new $11 billion U.S. buyout fund, called Carlyle Partners VI. The $265 billion CalPERS is the largest pension fund in the United States.