Businessman aims to rebuild fast food empire
Fast-food impresario Irwin Kruger has been best known as the inventor of the McDonut, and as the man who opened the first McDonald's in Manhattan, in 1973. In 2002, Kruger made headlines again, opening a three-story, 17,500-square-foot McDonald's in Times Square.
But his McDonald's empire in Manhattan collapsed a few years ago, the victim of the slow economy and expiring leases on the properties.
Now Kruger is back -- and on Long Island, too.
He has signed on with Smashburger, a Denver-based fast-casual restaurant, to open as many as 20 Smashburger eateries on the Island in the next five years, with the first to open later this year, according to Smashburger founder Tom Ryan.
Smashburgers are just what they sound like - smashed. They are one-third or half-pound balls of fresh Angus beef that are smashed on a flat grill and coated with butter, to sear in the juicy flavors.
"We hold it there for 10 seconds," Ryan said. "It results in a very fast cook time. It takes about 20 minutes from the time you order to the time you leave."
Kruger's happy to be back.
"I never wanted to leave the business," he said last week. "Of the seven [McDonald's] I operated in New York City in 2007, three had lost their leases. Of the remaining four, three faced short-term lease problems.
"I made a decision in light of where the economy and real estate was in Manhattan. The likelihood of opening new restaurants under the McDonald's flag seemed to be diminishing. Smashburger captivated me. I like to be involved in new restaurants."
It was the taste of the burgers, he said, that motivated him to sign on with Smashburger.
Kruger, who has a house in the Hamptons, does not envision coming up with anything like a McDonut, which he introduced at the Times Square store in 2004. "The McDonut was something unique" for that store, he said.
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