Do One Thing, and Do It Properly
“Our mission remains the same: to serve proper hamburgers, the way they should be.” When Byron’s founder, Tom Byng, talks about his work, it is almost in religious terms. As he came back from the US in 2007, Byng was struck by the lack of quality yet simple burger places in the UK. The concept he then launched was simple – to serve fresh and quick hamburgers. And even though the burger market is pretty packed, Byron’s growth is now undeniable. Since they were bought by the Gondola Group, which is also the owner of Pizza Express, in 2013 for £100mm, their business plan went from opening 10 new restaurants a year to 15. Today, there are 70 restaurants all over the UK. As a benchmark, that is 10 more than Five Guys.
You might wonder what makes Byron so special in a culture of burger lovers. As a matter of fact, a study led in the UK shows that 39 percent of fast-food goers see gourmet burgers as a healthier alternative, so seeing places like Byron constantly pop up is no real surprise. But when Byron Hamburgers was founded in 2007, this new fast yet craft food culture had just exploded, led by the general hipster trend taking over the food, drink and fashion fields. By combining grass-roots food trends with the traditional and well-known universe of chain restaurants, Byron got its foot in the door at the perfect moment. However, the brand tried to construct itself in opposition to what was already there. Its branding strategy was built as anti-branding, a rebellious dynamic that was new enough to stand out.
Byron Is a Diamond Necklace
In addition to the branding strategy, the brand design is very specific and current. Each restaurant has a different interior. It’s more than just different furniture and accessories, but a completely different universe, a different vibe and a different style of interior design. Be it the industrial look of trendy Islington or the wooden interior of Leeds, the atmosphere is never the same – Byng likes using the expression ‘diamond necklace’ instead of a chain to describe his business. The Byron logo outside the venues changes as well, which is especially unusual for this sector – sometimes it’s painted on the wall in bright red, sometimes it has neon writing over a large glass window. By choosing a visual identity that is just as inconsistent as the food offer is consistent (simple burgers with a beer or a shake, American style), Byron took a stance contrary to the current restaurant trend. Rather than creating another chain where an eating experience in Dubai would be the same as in Los Angeles, Byron seemed more inspired by pop-up places which people were undeniably drawn to.
The Byron Lifestyle
While browsing on Byron’s website, you will stumble across their e-shop. Product include a cookbook, £5 or £10 Byron Bills, a lager and a couple of t-shirts, demonstrating how their brand engagement towards the client is all over the place. While it is trying to be more than a simple burger joint, a kind of Urban Outfitters for foodies, Byron has not made clear decisions about what its relationship to the client is. Of course, they created a burger club, but all it does is alert its members about new restaurant openings or other Byron news. What does the customer get from that? Considering Byron was part of a scandal after setting a trap for its migrant workers where it teased an extremely violent reaction from the public in London, it could be a smart move to redefine the various elements of their engagement.
This last problem brings us to the following statement: simple craft food businesses are not as cool anymore. What was groundbreaking in 2009 has lost some of its appeal, and a brand like Byron needs to be very specific and systematic about their message. It is only by developing a true brand story, more complex than “bringing burgers back from the US for the UK to enjoy,” that Byron could set itself as a real pillar of today’s gourmet fast food. That’s even more crucial if the brand wants to expand overseas and dream bigger than the UK alone.
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