VERA’S BURGER SHACK AIMS TO GO FROM BEACHSIDE TO COUNTRYSIDE

Vera’s Burger Shack has come a long way since it started as a seasonal concession stand on the beach in West
Vancouver in 1977.

After being purchased by Gerald Tritt and Noah Cantor in 2000, the humble burger shack now boasts 16 year-round outlets, fourteen of which are franchised.  After purchasing Vera’s from the original owner, Vera Hochfelder, the pair began franchising in 2005. Fifteen of the outlets are in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia and one is in Ontario, in the nation’s capital.

Tritt describes Vera’s as a ‘fast casual’, high-end burger chain that has a broad menu including burgers, hot dogs, fries, onion rings, sweet potato fries, jalapeno bottle caps and a bevy of other mouthwatering menu items.

The pair are equally passionate about continuing the original Vera’s commitment to quality. This is why they only use the best ingredients, making their own burger patties fresh daily on site, seasoned with their own proprietary spice mix.

The chain offers over 1,000 burger combinations given their extensive “flavour shot” options including pico-guacamole, fried mushrooms, jalapeno bottle caps, roasted garlic , and smoked white cheddar ,among others. They feature Limited Time Offer Specialty
Burgers, fresh cut double-fried french fries made from Kennebec potatoes, plus several sizing options to satisfied all hungers – from slightly peckish to ravenous, and all points in between.

One of the main driving forces behind Tritt’s decision to buy the business was his love of the freshly made burgers he first sampled at Vera’s stand-alone beachside shack back in the 80’s.

“I just loved the burgers,” Tritt said during a recent interview from the Vera’s headquarters in Vancouver. “ They tasted
so freshly home-made, and better than any other burgers I had eaten. I really believed, and still do, that there is an opportunity to share this awesome food with more and more burger lovers across North America.”

Tritt’s plans for expansion coincided with the high-end burger craze in Vancouver in the early 2000s. This trend saw the entry into the market of a lot of competition in the form of both large American chains and small, independent shops all trying to cash in on people’s
new-found love of gourmet quality burgers. As Tritt points out, despite the heavy competition, Vera’s did a lot more than hold its ground; Vera’s established itself as the quintessential BC burger experience, consecutively winning awards for Vancouver’s Best Burger for over a decade in various polls throughout the Lower Mainland.

Ideal Franchisee

Tritt describes Vera’s ideal franchisee as someone who has some experience, preferably in food service, and who understands that when you open a franchise, you have to work the system while engaging and reaching out to your community. The ideal franchisee will
have a passion for people, delivering a service experience that makes price irrelevant. They must also love the Vera’s concept and brand, as well as wanting to be their own boss and be rewarded for the effort they put in.

“We’re prepared to go right across the country. We have master franchise territories available in all provinces except British Columbia.”

After a potential franchisee fills out an application, they go through a quick phone interview to determine initial fit. If a good fit on both sides, the applicant will receive a package of documents to complete. This includes a questionnaire they can fill out to see if the potential franchisee shares the same expectations as the company. Once that’s done, timelines, costs and commitments are all
established and then the task of securing a location begins. If the franchisee has a location in mind, Vera’s management will engage a real estate agent to see what opportunities exist in that location or to identify alternate locations.

This process is never rushed. Tritt maintains that it is worth waiting to get the right location with the right operator, rather than doing things too quickly just for the sake of opening early.

Initial training for new franchisees is delivered at the corporate store in Kitsilano. Once the new location is getting ready to open, training staff moves into the franchisee’s store for the in-store training phase. Management supports and oversees the store openingto make sure the franchisee is prepared for success. Vera’s will help execute a ‘soft opening’ with the franchisee followed by an official grand opening party. Once the new franchisee is prepared to go it on their own, the training team does a slow withdrawal from the  store.

Management support continues post-opening with ongoing training, monthly newsletters with tools and tips, local and general marketing ideas, teleconferences and regular franchisee meetings. To ensure all locations are following procedures and working optimally, the company also employs the services of ‘secret shopper’ services, which carry out undercover inspections and report back to management and the franchisees.

Notwithstanding all of these resources devoted to supporting franchisees, the most important aspect of support offered by Vera’s management is its availability and responsiveness. With little bureaucracy, franchisees can easily talk to someone in charge who can assist them.

“When you need help and call us, you get us,” Tritt stated. “We’re here for you in a way that larger chains often can’t deliver.”

Location, Location, Location

While Vera’s is currently well established in the Lower Mainland with one outlying location in Ottawa, the chain plans to bring their delicious fare into all the provinces (except for Quebec).

“We’re prepared to go right across the country,” Tritt said. “We’ve got master franchise territories available in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and the Maritimes.”

There are also single store locations available on Vancouver Island, the Interior of BC and in Northern BC, though Vera’s is also prepared to do multi-store deals in any of those territories in BC.

All of Tritt and Cantor’s hard work in expanding the Vera’s name has paid off, the pair having been named to the Top 40 Under 40 in Business in Vancouver Magazine several years ago.

Going forward, says Tritt, the company is focused on finding the right franchisees to help them spread Vera’s world-class burger experience across Canada. Vera’s Burger Shack has come a long way since its early days as a stand-alone shack on the beach, and the future is looking sunny indeed.

For more information go to www.verasburgershack.com

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