Almost a year on from Big Fernand's UK debut, we sat down with the Mathieu Durand to explore what lessons they've learned and how they've carved out a niche in what is a very competitive burger market.
QSR: You’ve been open in the UK for coming up on 12 months now. How has it gone? What lessons have you learned? In what ways have you had to adjust the way you operate / your menu for the UK market?
We opened in March last year. It has been a great experience so far. Opening in London was like starting from scratch. Working with new suppliers to find the same quality standards than in France. Finding the best Raclette de Savoie in the UK, finding the best way to get fresh supply of the best French Charolais beef. But we are very happy to see that Londoners are enjoying the products and regularly put us among the best burgers in London. A burger is a simple product, a good bun, a good cheese and a good meat. And it seems that people love French bread, cheese and meat. Why wouldn't they like our burger then?
QSR: How many stores do you currently have and in what countries?
We now have 20 shops, mainly in France but also one in Hong-Kong. Everything went very quickly since we opened our first shop 4 years ago from a very tiny shop in Paris. Now we have sites in busy districts, commercial centers etc.
QSR: Do you have plans for further sites in London or the UK? If so, what locations?
It’s probably still a little too early to answer to this one, we really wanted to make sure to be able to do our burger (or our Hamburgé, as we say in our French restaurant) right in London first before expanding.
QSR: Who is your typical customer?
A curious Londoner who is looking for something different to eat, and is keen on knowing exactly where their food comes from.
QSR: What has your most popular menu item proven to be?
The Bartholomé (Beef, raclette, smoked bacon, caramelised onions, chives and bbq sauce) tends to be the most popular. It seems that few people can resist to Raclette cheese and smoked slices of streaky bacon. But the Victor, our veal burger with Fourme d'Ambert (a very creamy blue cheese) is really appreciated by our customers.
QSR: The burger market in the UK is a very competitive one- how do you differentiate yourselves?
Of course it is, but we have a very different approach to it. We don't do burgers but instead "hamburgés" a word we invented in France to describe a burger with French products. We really focus on ingredients, and sourcing the best French ingredients from France makes us quite different from the others joints in the London market.
QSR: Who do you regard as your competition?
Obviously the Big Ones, Byron, Honest, but also smaller burger makers who love their products as much as we do. There are also a few people now using French products in their burgers and we love it!
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