The 11th New Jersey Smashburger franchise officially opens in the Troy Hills Shopping Center in Parsippany Thursday, but residents had an opportunity Monday afternoon and evening for an early taste of what the chain restaurant has to offer.
There was excitement in the dining room as patrons who had received e-mailed invitations to attend lined up to try out Smashburger's burgers, chicken sandwiches and fries.
Server Mike Calderone said he was feeling the excitement too.
"I love this," he exclaimed. "The spirit is great!"
He said the spirit carries over to his feelings for working for Smashburger.
"It's a great place to work," he said.
Cashier Brandon Black, who has worked for the company for only three weeks, agreed.
"Smashburger is all about family and helping people," he said, noting that the sneak peek event was doing double duty by serving as a fundraiser for the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.
"We recently sent a lot of food to the Market Street Mission in Morristown," Black said. "They were so grateful and we helped a lot of people. We really believe in giving back to the community."
And apparently, to employees too.
Company trainer Diana Paredes told Patch that though she is but 19 years old, she has spent the last two years moving up the ladder at Smashburger.
"The company is growing," she said. "If you're responsible and a hard worker, you get rewarded. If you're here two years, it's because you've shown a commitment to giving excellent customer service."
Scott Gillman, CEO of Mascott Corporation, which owns all of the New Jersey branches, told Patch that the commitment to service is a bit of a corporate obsession.
"We like to say we're obssessive about serving our guests," Gillman said. "We're not going to be perfect for every person every time, but if someone is not enjoying the experience, or if they ordered something they didn't particularly care for, we'll go to the table and try to get them something else right away or do what it takes to help them have a great time.
"We try to create a surprisingly nice experience for our guests in a restaurant where the average check is eight or nine dollars," he continued. "In today's economy, a lot of people go to a casual dining place that's a little more expensive and are a little disappointed—the food's OK, the service is fair. We're just trying to do a great job with the food and the service."
According to Gillman, the classic Smashburger is an obvious focus of the franchise, but he said the real priority is offering variety to customers, in the form of alternate versions of the standard burgers, chicken, salads and fries that are available, along with a number of alternate side dishes.
And he echoed Paredes' sentiment about the company's dedication to the people who work for Smashburger.
"We want to promote from within as much as possible," he said. "I opened the original one, in Montclair, in December 2009, and in the past two and a half years, we've seen people move up from the line to being a general manager."
As far as company growth goes, Mascott's CEO said that when he joined the firm as its first franchisee, there were four stores. At the time he opened his Montclair location, there were about 40. Now, he said, there are approximately 170.
"It's been a very fast-growing concept," he said.
Gillman said Parsippany is a perfect location for the chain.
"We want to be in towns with a big daytime population, and because so many people come to work in Parsippany, in offices and retail, it makes it ideal," he explained. "And it's a great neighborhood. We like to be in the center of our towns, so this location, on Route 46, works well for us."
And he said he's hoping the relationship between Smashburger and the township will be a long, happy one.
"We want to become Parsippany's new hometown burger joint."