Portland-based Killer Burger eyes Reno for franchise expansion

RENO, Nev. — In recent years, Portland, Oregon-based food and drink businesses have been sinking their teeth into Reno’s restaurant scene.

So much so, a pocket of downtown Reno, on Pine Street, where Portland transplants Pine State Biscuits and Sizzle Pie reside, has been dubbed Little Portland (PDX coffee chain See See Motor Coffee Co. brewed in that area for three years before closing in October 2019).

Killer Burger is looking to become the next Portland eatery to bring its array of flavors — including its famed Peanut Butter Pickle Bacon Burger — to the Biggest Little City.

Billing itself as a “rock ’n roll burger hangout,” the 10-year-old chain plans to open at least two franchises in Reno as part of its five-year growth plan, said Brian Hebb, director of development at Killer Burger.

“There really isn’t anywhere else in the West I would be more excited about getting into,” Hebb told the NNBW this month. “Reno’s got a mix of demographics we feel like we can thrive in. When you have a town that has a good share of wealthy folks, a good working class, college students, and an engine in the economy in tourism and technology, that’s a real sweet spot for us because we appeal to a lot of different kinds of people.

“Hamburgers are apolitical — everybody loves them.”

Though the company doesn’t have specific locations mapped out for franchises, Hebb said Killer Burger is especially attracted to the Reno neighborhood where its fellow “Portland compatriots” are operating.

“We’ve had the benefit of seeing ‘Portland, Nevada’ happen down on Pine Street,” Hebb said. “I’ve seen how they’ve done and really taking encouragement from their experience down there.”

A look at the exterior of the Killer Burger restaurant in Sherwood, Oregon.

Killer Burger has also zoomed in on the I-580 interchange, near the Whole Foods, in South Reno. Hebb said the company is open to moving into second-generation restaurant spaces rather than building from the ground up.

“What we do is simple and straightforward — we make burgers and fries,” said Hebb, noting Killer Burger eateries typically seat 50-75 people. “It means we’re very flexible and can fit into a lot of different arrangements.”

Each Killer Burger restaurant would create an average of 18-25 part-time and full-time employees, he added.

According to the company, franchisees will have to meet a net worth requirement of $1 million for a single unit, with $150,000 of liquid capital. The total investment range runs between $289,300 and $704,500, and includes a $40,000 initial franchise fee.

Killer Burger says it is looking for both single-unit and multi-unit franchisees, with ideal candidates being “transitioning professionals, seasoned restaurant owners/operators and skilled entrepreneurs.”

“I would point out that none of our current franchisees had been in the restaurant business prior to joining Killer Burger and they’re all now looking for a second location,” Hebb said. “It’s pretty gratifying to know that we can take somebody from another industry and bring them into ours and make them successful.”

Reno is one of a few regional western markets targeted for expansion by Killer Burger, which currently has 11 locations in Oregon and Washington. The company, which intends to quadruple its presence over the next five years, also plans to bring its burgers to Boise and Denver.

While ambitious growth strategies might seem dicey during a pandemic, Killer Burger has continued to be profitable amid the COVID crisis, according to the company.

“Our brand loyalty is certainly a part of it,” said Hebb, noting the company invested heavily in an online ordering system when COVID hit. “I think that we’ve been able to stay busy because we keep delivering what people have expected. And we’ll keep doing that.”


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