Hilton, which operates more than 3,600 hotels in 81 countries, has 869 properties in the pipeline around the globe, many of them full-service.
BGR, with eight locations along the East Coast and eight more on the way, has already made some significant strides on its own, but partnering with Hilton opens new doors, said company founder and vice chairman Mark Bucher.
“This allows us to get Burger Joints spread out quicker throughout the U.S. and even internationally,” he said. “Hilton is a leader. They move fast and interact very positively with their owners and franchisees. We love that.”
In the three years since debuting his gourmet burger shop, Bucher has made a number of strategic moves to grow the business. He began offering franchise opportunities last January and has since signed five separate contracts to launch BGR in such cities as Mobile, Ala. A few deals with airport and stadium concessionaires are also in the works.
BGR has emerged as a top contender in the crowded field of burger joints, gaining a cadre of fans, including Beth Scott, Hilton's vice president of restaurant concepts for full-service and luxury brands. About eight months ago, she broached the idea of adding BGR to Hilton's mix of restaurants.
“Local owners and local concepts make a whole lot of sense,” Scott said. “If we want to appeal to local clientele, we have to align ourselves with local restaurant operators that already are proven and know the market.”
Hilton's restaurant portal has been a labor of love for Scott, who came up with the idea shortly after joining the McLean-based company two years ago. Inspired by the configuration of dating site eHarmony, Scott designed the platform to act as a matchmaker for hotel owners. They can log on to the site and select the kind of atmosphere, cuisine and deal structure that fits their needs.
To date 324 owners have registered for the site. Twenty-five registrants have sent notices to restaurateurs expressing their interest; Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is slated to open in the Washington Hilton late in the summer. Scott is aiming to have a total of 50 companies listed on the site before the close of the year. She is looking for a broad spectrum of proven local and national operators, with concepts that could translate well overseas.
While courting established brands, Hilton has developed its own dining concept: Harth, a 120-seat farm-to-table themed bar and restaurant slated to open next week in the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner. Though there are no plans to replicate the restaurant, headed up by renowned Chicago chef Thomas Elder, it speaks to Scott's end goal of “elevating Hilton's game.”