They said in New York City and London that it wouldn’t work: A restaurant serving only three entrée dishes, all at the same price. But a U.K.–based restaurant company, Burger & Lobster, is rocking the Big Apple with a minimalized menu that features upscale proteins.
Burger & Lobster offers a 10-ounce hamburger, a 6-ounce lobster roll, and a one-and-half pound grilled or steamed lobster, each with a salad and fries, and each for $20. “In London they said you couldn’t get lobster for this price, that lobster is seasonal, and that it wouldn’t work in Mayfair, which has a lot of high-end restaurants,” says co-owner Vladimir Borodin. “In fact, they said it didn’t make any sense at all.”
But it does work, and the Burger & Lobster chain opened its first U.S. location in New York City in January 2015, with another coming later this year. The concept is the brainchild of four Russians who launched their first restaurant in London in 2011, and now operate 12 in the U.K.—nine in London and three elsewhere. They also opened a location in Dubai, one in Sweden, and one in Kuwait. More are on the horizon for this side of the Atlantic, too. Although the Burger & Lobster owners are concentrating on the New York City market for now, expanding around the country—through corporate and franchised stores—is certainly in the offing.
The concept is working quite nicely in New York City, with that restaurant on track to gross $10 to $11 million this year, serving an average of 1,000 covers per night and half as many again on the weekend. New York City seemed natural for expansion, as Borodin explains: “Zagat in London told us this was the best American concept for 2012, and all three dishes are very New York food items. So we thought if we can have success in New York, this concept can work anywhere.”
Perfected Prix Fixe Proteins
The secret to the success of this nascent chain is that initially debated diminutive menu. It was a very deliberate move, Borodin notes. “It’s our recipe for perfection.”
Before launching the chain, he and his partners discovered that “with the mono-product approach—when you can focus on one thing and eliminate the rest—you can work on food quality and speed of service.”
It’s also about creating an enhanced experience for diners, he continues. “When I go to restaurants with a big menu, I’m stressed. And when I ask waiters what their favorite item is, they mention two or three dishes, so we decided to do just two or three and eliminate the rest.”
Burger & Lobster restaurants don’t even have a printed menu, so there’s nothing to read, and servers are hired for their personality, not their experience.
The byproduct of a limited menu is that Burger & Lobster realizes significant operational efficiencies—in the kitchen, in storage, with waste, and through purchasing. Serving time is short, leading to more table turns (they turn five or six times a night in New York City, though in London it can be up to eight times), and labor costs are lower because each server can handle more tables since everything is simplified and fast.
The limited menu extends to the appetizers—there are none—and the desserts—there’s just one in New York, cheesecake mousse, plus two or three gelatos. The bar menu, however, is more extensive.