DENVER – Smashburger is partnering with Bridging Culture Worldwide, a professional consulting, strategic planning and cross-cultural management service, to lead its expansion into South Korea and to sign its first South Korean multi-unit franchise development agreement in 2011. Smashburger’s planned entry into the South Korean market marks the beginning of a larger international expansion plan that includes other fast-growing economies like the Middle East, Canada and other Asian countries.

The company said its product and concept have proven to be successful for franchise operators in the United States and international market expansion is a logical next step.

“We look forward to beginning our international expansion for Smashburger and know South Korea is a great launch pad for our ‘better burger’ concept in Asia,” said David Prokupek, Smashburger chairman and chief executive officer. “We look forward to working with Don Southerton and Bridging Culture Worldwide to connect with multi-unit developers and operators for our expansion into South Korea.”

When asked if the South Korean menu would differ much from menus in the U.S., Tom Ryan, founder of Smashburger, told MEAT&, “We’re going to do two things in South Korea. We’re going to bring the relevant parts of the domestic brand to the South Korean market and then we’re going to add menu items that reflect our current brand’s commitment to localize our menus in innovative ways for our local customers. Whether you’re in Boise, Idaho, or South Korea, that’s going to be a hallmark of the brand.

“I know we’re going to be taking burgers and chicken there,” he added. “After that, if there are regional opportunities to fit the Smashburger brand with what consumers are looking for, we’ll do that, too. I wouldn’t rule out anything at this point in time that reflects primary demand set against the context fo the Smashburger occasion. Could that mean pork and seafood? It might.”

What attracted Smashburger to South Korea was that nation’s very vibrant economy, Ryan said. “Western U.S. concepts have a great track record of success in South Korea, and we have an outstanding partner there. When you put all three of those things together, South Korea becomes a great entry point for Smashburger to enter the Asian continent with a lot of vitality.”

Denver-based Smashburger defines itself as “the country’s fastest-growing “better burger” restaurant company, designed to be every city's favorite place for burgers.” Developed and owned by private equity and concept-development firm Consumer Capital Partners (C.C.P.), Smashburger operates and develops corporate, joint-venture and franchise stores throughout the country. The company plans to open more than 100 stores by the end of 2010 and operate more than 200 in 2011.