It was the Smackdown that lead me to reviewing Hopdoddy. I couldn't believe how much work the small chain put into burgers they charged so little for. Most customers will likely spend a little more on burgers topped elaborately with gourmet cheeses and toppings, but if you want, you can get a plain, completely hand-crafted burger on a house-baked bun for just $6 here.
You save a little money but you lose a lot of quality if you go the fast-food route. By comparison, a double quarter pounder with cheese at McDonald's costs $4.39. They use meat that is ground in a factory and frozen for an undetermined amount of time, and their buns are often days old. McDonald's will only serve you your burger cooked well-done and the clam-shell grills they use to cook patties squeeze every last bit of moisture from the meat.
Better fast-food options come closer but still miss the mark significantly. Smashburger charges $5.99 for a 7-ounce patty, but they cook all their burgers to well-done and use preground meat. And Mooyah Burger's patties come in paltry 3.2-ounce patties that don't even come close to Hopdoddy in quality.
When I interviewed Larry Foles, one of the owners behind the Hopdoddy concept, I asked him how much all this cost. Doesn't all this hand-crafted burger making eat into his bottom line? "Our equipment package is huge," Foles told me, but he stands by his business model that aims to charge half the price for the same burger high-end restaurants sell for $12. He plans on making the difference up in volume.
The lines outside of all three Hopdoddy locations are a testament to the fast-casual diner's hunger for higher quality food. It reminds me a little of Chipotle, which leverages the same high-quality ingredient model to serve burritos that blow Taco Bell and Taco Cabana out of the water.
I wonder if this is the beginning of a larger shift -- an indication that Americans still want to eat quickly, but that they're growing tired of hyper-processed, cheap and tasteless food.