Naughty BRGR leads in digitalizing fast-casual
What happens when you mix a chef’s quest for the best burger with determined and creative restaurant business development and a vision of being a pioneer in digitalizing the fast-casual restaurant business? You get a Burger Man that everyone knows, a Naughty BRGR that everyone wants to try, and new ways of kitchen management that makes staff and restaurant managers happy and focused.
The moment you step in the Naughty BRGR product development kitchen in Helsinki, you get a feel of a unique, pulsating atmosphere of a fast-casual burger restaurant. The passion for, humbly, making the best burgers in the world and the quest for constantly developing the art of making and serving such burgers is omnipresent. It’s all about aiming for and being the best. This applies to its food products, ingredients, staff, restaurant experiences – as well as the use of innovative technology to digitalize fast-casual restaurant business through digital kitchen management to make it all happen the Naughty way.
Naughty = forerunner to digitalize fast-casual restaurant business
The Naughty BRGR story started as the Naughty BRGR Founder and Co-Owner, Akseli Herlevi,competed in the first Top Chef contest in Finland in 2011, where one of the judges initially said that his burger was “too naughty”. This only fueled his intention to do things differently and excel at his own passion.
Akseli won Top Chef, repeatedly sold out at street food events and went on to set up his own burger restaurant in Helsinki in 2015. Of course it had to be called Naughty BRGR. Akseli has become known as the Burger Man through his TV show where he travels around North America in search of the meaning of life — and burgers.
Fast forward to today. Naughty BRGR has eight fast-casual restaurants in five cities around Finland, employing some 120 people – and a franchising model is in the works. It wants to be a forerunner in the fast-casual restaurant space, which includes being highly digital in running the fast-casual chain business efficiently and based on real-time data. The company hired top-notch restaurant business developer and passionate chef (also with a successful Top Chef background), Joseph “Jose” Youssef, as its Chief Development Officer in early 2020. We met with Jose and he seems to love the digital vision as much as the Naughty BRGR food product.
Pushing through the pandemic with determination and investments
As the Covid-19 pandemic hit in the spring of 2020 Naughty BRGR was just about to open two new burger restaurants. A crisis situation to many, but how about to these guys?
“In a way, it was easier opening new locations in the middle of it all. We couldn’t arrange any opening events, we didn’t even need to get tables and chairs! We started off with take-away and it went really well,” says Jose.
To this day, Naughty BRGR hasn’t closed any of its restaurants during the coronavirus slump. Initially some employees were laid off, but almost all were called back to work within two weeks. Obviously, going from 20% take-away orders to 40% has taken its toll as the costs for packaging and deliveries, in particular, eat into the profit margins. However, they decided to go forward in their own way by investing and pushing forward with new ideas, such as Naughty BRGR wagons (food trucks) visiting various neighborhoods in the summer of 2020, in Helsinki.
“We didn’t close any restaurants as we thought that that’s when you lose customers. Because we stayed open, our restart was better positioned compared to those who closed down. And no, we didn’t make any profit, but we gained market share. We were available to our customers, which is important as people are creatures of habit,” Jose continues. “And yes, there was a bit of luck involved, but I believe we made the right decisions.”
Chefstein® leads digital kitchen management
The aim of Naughty BRGR is to be a fast-casual restaurant trendsetter in taking the digital leap in kitchen management. Steps in this direction have been taken already and investment was not put on hold even over the course of the pandemic. Chefstein® by Fredman is a key piece of orchestrating business management digitally at Naughty BRGR.
“Everything we do is based on data, from marketing to purchasing, auditing and reporting,” explains Jose in an excited manner.
Chefstein® is the central kitchen and business management solution that acts as the “single screen” for accessing and analyzing the various pieces of data that Naughty BRGR tracks for making informed business decisions.
“The decision to select Chefstein® for this role was easy. It’s the master: it’s visual and it presents data in a format that is easy to analyze. I can just sign in and see what is happening at all the different locations. It even makes equipment auditing easy,” Jose summarizes when asked about the key value of Chefstein®.
In fact, Chefstein® has been identified as a requirement in all Naughty BRGR franchising contracts going forward.
Quality control, consistency and training done digitally
When a new item is added to the Naughty BRGR menu, or when a new member joins the kitchen or front of house team, quality and consistency must remain at the highest level in order to ensure that the customer experience is always at the same, “best” level. According to Jose, everything at Naughty BRGR is “planned to the max”. Again, Chefstein®, together with the other digital solutions integrated with it, has a central role to play.
The Naughty recipes are tested to the tiniest detail. “When we do product development, the end result just cannot be ‘okay’, it always must be the next level of what we do,” Jose describes passionately. Final recipes include ingredient amounts to the gram, as well as details on which supplier each ingredient must be purchased from. Such data is entered into an integrated cashier and storage system, which keeps track of sales as well as inventory.
Jose and team also make training videos on how to prepare and plate the dishes. This has proved to be an efficient and time-saving way to train and to ensure consistency. Chefstein® has built-in features for recipe management to ensure consistency and for training purposes.
Safety and hygiene done digitally “can’t be faked”
The sophisticated measurements functions of Chefstein®, such as infrared temperature measurements of goods from delivery to storage as well as the surface hygiene probes, make kitchen management not only less laborsome but also more futureproof.
“When it’s measured automatically and the readings are stored digitally, you simply can’t fake hygiene or food safety,” states Jose.
He continues on to list some of the “so many benefits” of Chefstein®’s measurement features:
- Daily, legally-required temperature recordings are done automatically, generating time-savings and happier employees as manual measurement tasks are eliminated.
- No risk of cross-contamination as frozen product temperatures can be read with a laser with the click of a button.
- Temperature data is automatically stored on the system and anomalies can be easily spotted for analysis.
- Alarms can be set for selected devices as selected temperature levels and notifications are easy to spot for fast, corrective human action.
- Device suppliers can be included in the notifications process directly in case of appliance breakdowns.
Employee wellbeing and joint continuous development
The idea behind making Chefstein® a central tool in the daily life of all restaurant team members is to also boost employee wellbeing. Anyone can log in to the system via devices placed in various locations in the kitchen and look at the data. Having access to information from the status of shared, daily tasks, as well as challenges and successes in all operations processes, all the way to sales can have a remarkable impact on team spirit.
Jose and Akseli clearly love solving challenges and coming up with new innovations. Becoming pioneers in taking the fast-casual restaurant sector towards far-reaching digitalization is well under way.
“Chefstein® and digitalization is part of the Naughty BRGR brand. The plan is to develop and customize the solution together with the Fredman team to meet our future needs,” concludes Jose.
Naughty BRGR certainly is an interesting fast-casual restaurant chain to keep an eye on. The various concepts around the brand, including the chain restaurants, the Naughty BRGS wagon, the popular Naughty BRGR burger buns available via the major Finnish K Group supermarket chain, YouTube collaborations with various other food brands would only seem to be the beginning from the utterly creative, hugely passionate team. Only the sky is the limit, we’d say!