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Interview with URBAN Fresh Burgers and Fries Founders


Since 2017, URBAN Fresh Burgers & Fries has taken Yorkshire by storm. Easy to operate with huge growth potential, its unique customisability concept is a fantastic opportunity for passionate partners who share the brand’s drive and values.  In this interview we speak to the founders, Mehmet and Zerin Kent on how a shared passion for hospitality led them to open URBAN.  Read their story.

Tell us a bit about yourself

M: I’ve worked in hospitality in varying degrees since my early teens. My dad owned a restaurant in Doncaster where I got my first back of house experience doing pot wash and being a kitchen porter to help the chefs in the kitchen before I ran a takeaway in Rotherham. Then after graduating in 2014, I became an Architectural Technician working on store-fit outs for hospitality locations like McDonald’s and Miller & Carter. It was valuable experience and gave me a great insight into understanding effective kitchen layouts, as well as designing dining spaces where customers feel comfortable.  As enjoyable as it was, it never brought me the same joy as operating my own place. The opportunity to open URBAN in 2017 presented itself and we’ve never looked back. The first year getting the Wheatley store off the ground was tough and I think we even went a whole year without a day off, but we’ve always had a great support system around us in family who lent a hand when we needed it.

Z: Our backgrounds in food are quite similar – I’ve worked in family food businesses since I was young. The early days of URBAN were a bit of a blur.  We’d be up at 7am buying the produce because we didn’t have anywhere to store it and then going in to open the restaurant, doing a full day on the grill or at serving customers for 12 hours straight. It felt good to know that what we were doing was working and the reception we got for that first store was amazing. Now that we’re more established, we’re able to spend time with our young family.

Can you tell us about the business

M: We opened the first URBAN in 2017 and got a great response, and we’ve slowly built it over time to where we are now with four locations across South Yorkshire. We’ve always wanted to keep it simple and do a few things– fresh burgers and fries – and do them well. We’ve trialled dozens of patty recipes, marinades, burger buns and salads over the years just to make sure that they’re all the best they can be. Our fries are hand-cut daily, we cook fresh to order so it tastes great as well as creating no waste. We’ve had significant interest in franchising URBAN since our first year, but our goal was always to refine our concept and our systems before pushing for expansion. It was a strategic decision to take our time to build strong foundations before launching the franchise opportunity.

Z:  Although there is almost a million ways to have an URBAN, the concept is simple. And it works! Franchising was always on the cards, but we wanted to have absolute confidence that everything that needed to be in place was right before we opened the opportunity up. We know that working with the right franchisees will help us achieve the level of growth we’ve got planned.

Who is your target market / what is the demand for your services?

Z: Anyone who loves a great burger!

M: We’re most popular with 18–35-year-olds, but we really do appeal to most people.  People are more aware than ever about the quality of the food they are eating, so our commitment to high-quality ingredients resonates a lot. It’s still fast to prepare but you can taste the difference. Customers like the fact you can see what’s happening in the kitchen too so they know and can trust that the food they’re getting is as good as we say it is.

Why is URBAN a great investment for potential franchisees?

M: Because it’s not been a rush job. We’ve proven that it works and that there’s demand for it. We opened our first store in 2017 and have grown sustainably over the years, even through the pandemic and all the economic challenges that came after.

Z: Absolutely. We’ve proven that the demand for quality products and service will thrive under any circumstances. So, with a product that people love, and all the time we’ve invested in perfecting our operations, it’s an easily adoptable model.

What differentiates URBAN from the competition?

M: URBAN stands out for lots of reasons. You can see our commitment to quality in everything we produce, like our homemade veggie burgers and cheese sauce. People love the customisability of the menu – from burgers to Coke Freestyle drinks – because it gives them the freedom to enjoy their food, their way. And our systems and operations are set up to succeed on both single and multi-site scale.

Z: We also differentiate ourselves on our approach to franchisees. To us, partnership approach is more than just a buzzword, it's how we want to do business. The success of our franchisees is our success, and the success of URBAN as a brand. Being able to work with other talented entrepreneurs for our mutual success and achievement is the goal.

What is the role of one of your franchisees?

Z: It depends if they want to be an owner-operator or owner-investor. Owner-investors would recruit a General Manager and Deputy Manager to run the day-to-day and team management side of things, so their role would be to stay close to the numbers. Owner-operators would have a more hands-on role and work closely with us at HQ to drive their site’s performance.

What qualities do you look for in a franchisee?  What makes a successful franchisee?

M: Shared values, 100%. Aside from having solid experience running a business and leading people, we’re looking for people who value the same things we do, that have made URBAN what it is. Integrity, drive for excellence, and personal commitment to the brand.

Z: That’s a non-negotiable for us. We’re looking for people who are driven and ambitious but who won’t compromise on their integrity, high standards or people focus. Our team matter to us a lot. If they’re happy, they’re serving great food, which means that our customers are happy too!

What other challenges have you had to overcome and adapt to over the years in your franchise and the industry in general?

M:  There’ve been plenty of challenges along the way. Scaling from a single site into a multi-unit operation, economic difficulties due to the pandemic and rising costs. I’d be lying if I said the journey has been simple! Learning to achieve quality and high standards though strong management and systems as we grow has definitely been the biggest one.

Z: The hospitality industry is tough. Customers have so many options to choose from, and food trends seem to come and go. Being true to our authentic selves and focusing our energy into creating great burgers and fries has been difficult at times, but we’re glad that we did.

What have been URBAN’s biggest achievements/successes to date so far?

M: Our Burger Masters are the backbone of our business. We’re really proud to have a strong team in place who can nurture junior talent and help develop them to become future managers and leaders with us. We’ve got people who have been with us for over 5 years and seeing them grow and develop has been really rewarding.

Z: Our organic growth and high customer rating. Knowing that we have scaled beyond being able to do it all ourselves, but to be able to continue impressing customers with our great food and our brilliant team of people - that's the biggest achievement.

What does the future hold for the business? What are your growth targets?

M: We want URBAN to become the leading British brand for fresh burgers. We know the UK has a capacity for at least 150 outlets and our goal is to achieve this target through strategic partnerships and expansion.

What expansion plans have you got nationally and internationally?

Z: Our primary goal is to grow across the UK. We’re a British brand and we want to establish strong roots in our home country!

M: Not that we’re ruling international growth out, though. Wherever we go, our aim is to ensure we select the right people to partner with to ensure growth without compromising on our quality or experience.

What advice would you give to someone considering franchising their business?

M: Get prepared. Prove that it works in different locations, test your systems, and ensure you have measures in place to monitor and achieve your standards. You have to have complete faith in your business and trust that you’ve done everything in your power to make sure someone could come in and be running their own successful site within 12 months because you laid the right foundations. It needs to be operationally seamless.

Z: To add to that, I’d say to get the right people in, too. And get comfortable with relinquishing control! You’re handing the reins over to people who you’ve hired because they’re experts at what they do.

If you had to do it all again, what would you do differently?

M: If I could go back to the early years of URBAN, I would invest more time and resources into training and onboarding from the beginning. We learned a significant lesson when we expanded the business from a single-unit operation to a multi-unit operation. To achieve the goal of delivering a consistent product every single time, the training program must be excellent and delivered consistently to each team member. We’ve made substantial progress with our training and onboarding systems, but we’re still always exploring new ways to ensure every team member is fully equipped and knowledgeable to deliver great burgers and fries every single time.

Interested and want to know more about URBAN Fresh Burgers & Fries?

The URBAN Fresh Burgers & Fries profile outlines all aspects of their franchise opportunity and allows you to contact them for further information or to ask a question.

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