Friday, December 9, 2016

Larkburger Turns 10 - the era of the "Better Burger"

In the era of the "Better Burger," with the rise of fast-casual restaurants like Smashburger, Five Guys, Bad-Daddy's, and, of course, Larkburger, I can't fathom why anyone would ever lower themselves to visiting the old fast food standbys like McDonalds or Carl's Jr. Today, the Colorado chain of Larkburger celebrates its tenth birthday in style, and business writer Emilie Rusch of the Denver Post has composed a fitting profile of the burger joint that typifies the "Better Burger" culture. Fortunately for people outside of Colorado, the Larkburger franchise is looking to expand its reach out of state.

But it all started with just one burger, a steak au poivre-inspired take on the American classic first featured at chef Thomas Salamunovich’s high-end Larkspur restaurant in Vail in 1999. “When we opened Larkspur, I wanted to have a hamburger in the menu that was truly memorable in a straightforward manner,” Salamunovich said. It was so memorable, in fact, that a version of that very same Larkburger — made with all-natural Black Angus beef and topped with tomato, lettuce, onion, pickle and house-made lemon-Dijon sauce — got a restaurant all its own in 2006, with a fast-casual spin.
Of course, the celebration of a great business model in the burger business is tempered by today's news of the President-elect's pick for the head of the Labor Department, CKE Restaurant CEO Andrew Pudzer. Pudzer, like other corporate shills in the new administration, is emblematic of the low-cost, low-brow, low-quality burger culture of McD's and Carl's Jr. It's that system of mass production of mediocrity that places like Larkburger and Chipotle saved us from. Thus, it's no surprise that a man who champions "dollar-menu" mentality would be an opponent of minimun wage measures and support for overtime pay - ideas that could save the fast food industry from itself. Higher quality products/service and higher wages are intrinsically linked to higher quality of life. I know I'm "worth more than a dollar menu," and the country would be "great again" if more people felt the same. How apropos that Pudzer is named Labor Secretary just as we await the release of The Founder, a bio-pic of the "processed burger king" Ray Kroc - the man who unleashed mass marketing of mediocrity many years ago.

President-elect Donald Trump is expected to name fast-food executive Andrew Puzder, a vocal critic of substantially increasing the minimum wage and an opponent of rules that would make more workers eligible for overtime pay, as head of the Labor Department, according to a Republican briefed on the decision. Puzder, who runs CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., has been a harsh critic of raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, arguing that it would increase costs for consumers and lead to fewer jobs. He also opposes the recently-delayed Labor Department rule that aimed to make millions more workers eligible for overtime pay.

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