Better Burger Trend Peaking?

Elevation Burger, the well branded organic better-burger franchise, closed it’s Baltimore franchise.  Reviews were pretty bad.

As a whole, healthy, all-natural, and organic concepts have been having a hard time making their sales goals,  except for notable exceptions like Chipotle.  Everybody says they’ll go for healthy options, right?

You have to watch what people do and not what they say.  I’m sure most people reading this post would say during a focus group, “Yes, I’ll pay a little premium for the organic meal”.  But, in reality what do you do?   Most of the time you purchase based on convenience, taste and price as long as you deem the quality above an acceptable level.  I was reminded of this recently from a PepsiCo executive.  Chipotle is the rare bird – it succeeds because it tastes good, is priced competitively, the line moves very fast, and most people don’t even realize the food is mostly organic.

Another “healthy” brand to watch is Naked Pizza because it has signed several area development agreements for hundreds of units but lacks experienced management. A reviewer on Yelp stated, the “cheese was rubbery and the pizza was cardboard” – ouch! Naked Pizza has gathered remarkable attention for only having a single location.  The buzz is the result of winning an open venture funding call in a blog post from billionaire Mark Cuban.  It’s also reknowned for embracing of twitter (a billboard simply lists it’s twitter address).  A recent article summarizes the Naked Pizza idea:

NakedPizza’s solution is an all-natural, fortified pizza, made with simple, unprocessed ingredients, informed by science and made affordable and available through the proven carry-out and delivery model. It’s signature difference is a crust made with a diverse blend of “ancestral” whole grains, seeds and beans fortified with prebiotic fiber and probiotics (live, beneficial, cultures) for digestive health, balance and well being. The sauce, cheese, meats and vegetables toppings are all-natural with no added sugar, trans fats or high-fructose corn syrup. The company also offers a glutten-free crust and all-natural soy cheese. With less calories, lower glycemic index, and more protein than traditional pizzas and benefits including bone health and immunity, NakedPizza is the world’s first functional pizza.

About Ryan Knoll

Attorney and advisor with an interest in franchising. Feel free to email me comments and questions on the "Contact Us" page.


  1. Got to think the Pundit is being too kind here. I had a client that wanted me to check out this concept and within the confines of my NDA I’ll just say it is a logistical nightmare, plebeian to bad food at an outrageous price with a quirky customer base. The only thing they do well in my opinion is the shakes.

    Decent operators better logistics and some menu changes could save this brand, but as is – I would run from this one. Good press can only buy you so much at some point you have to execute on your message and elevation Burger falls down on the execution side of things. And branding is a dual edge sword, you bare the wounds inflicted on the system by bad operators.


  2. What do you mean by logistical nightmare?

    • In terms of logistics there are number of unfavorable supply chain issues.

      For instance the definition of what you can call organic and/or sustainable by the USDA is in flux(and some local communities have their own definitions, and likely more will)getting what you need can be far more challenging than others, getting supplies on short notice may be near impossible so you my tend to over order to compensate, which leads to higher food costs. The supply of beef is limited, and while growing market is far from efficient. Some grass fed beef producers are highly leveraged due to having to buy different land for grazing to meet labeling standards (old fields had lead chemical traces). So you could have disruptions and rapid price increases. Right now some are teetering, I know one developer is hoping a large producer goes under so he can develop the land – he sold the land to the rancher at the height of the real estate market figuring he could get it back much cheaper when this guy went under).

      In some areas of the country you cannot grind your own beef – period. It must be done at a certified facility.

      So in short, I meant you have a limited supply that may be prone to outages, food contamination, weather, etc.

      You may or may not be aware that part of the sustainability movement is the push to say things are only sustainable if the land is contractually not able to ever be developed (pending), and that the seeds must be untreated OP varieties and not F1s. Almost all organic tomatoes that are shipped are F1 hybrids. OPs are far more disease prone, less productive, nd don’t ship with a darn.

      Part of the problem with organic growers is many do not understand the science of pathogens and realize that their own success and economies of scale may create their own issues later on.



      • I’m a chef in Toledo. We don’t buy organic because of the price and our customers don’t require it. Though I know Sysco can provide us any organic meat if I wanted it. Sysco handles the sourcing and we pay them a premium to shield us from sourcing problems. If they see a problem getting organic beef or eggs, they can buy from another source. I don’t recall my grocery store every running out of organic milk. Maybe they’ve had sourcing issues, but I don’t care as long as the milk is on the shelf when I need it.

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