Restaurant hopes to bring smash-hit burgers to area

Waterford - It didn't take long for a line to form Friday morning at the new Smashburger fast food restaurant located off Hartford Turnpike across from Crystal Mall.

Activity was "non-stop" from about 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the inaugural day of business at the Angus beef burger-peddling franchise, according to David McBride. The store opened at 10 a.m.

McBride is general manager for Mohegan Fast Casual, the Mohegan Tribe's entity for pursuing fast food enterprises as part of the tribe's non-gaming business diversification initiative.

"Today has been extremely busy," McBride said Friday afternoon. "I would say it's exceeded our expectations," he added.

Shift leader John Denttinger said the Waterford store produced more than twice the volume of sales during lunch as a store he helped open in Los Angeles did on its opening day. Denttinger flew in from Las Vegas to help train staff over the past two weeks and is on site only temporarily.

Smashburger operates more than 270 corporate and franchise restaurants in 30 states and four foreign countries. The Waterford location is the first of 16 the Mohegan Tribe plans to build in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Among the roughly 20 customers dining at Smashburger around 4:30 p.m., some said they had made plans to try out the new digs while others said they happened upon the eatery while out for Black Friday shopping.

"We came into Best Buy, just hungry," said Jose Garcia, of Norwich, who was sharing a meal with his son.

Looking for place to eat, they noticed that the burger joint was occupying the space of a pizza restaurant they used to patronize.

Smashburger's space was formerly occupied by Troy's Rock & Roll Pizza, which closed last year. The new restaurant has 45 employees, according to McBride.

Kara McBride said she made plans to stop by after hearing about the restaurant. A self-proclaimed lover of hamburgers, she came to dine with her husband, son, daughter and friends.

"I wanted to try it," she said.

t.townsend@theday.com

Twitter: @ConnecticuTess

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