TAMPA, Fla. – A national franchise launch of Burger 21, a new fast-casual concept featuring 21 burger creations was announced Sept. 7 by owners of The Melting Pot Restaurants Inc. Burger 21 opened its first corporate-owned restaurant in Tampa, Fla., in November 2010 with a second slated to open this fall.

Its founders plan to take the "beyond the better burger" concept national and offer franchising opportunities to qualified single and multi-unit candidates.

In November 2009, Mark Johnston, his wife and two brothers founded Burger 21. Leveraging more than 25 years of franchising experience, the Johnston family said they recognized an opportunity to introduce a higher-quality product in a rapidly growing foodservice category.

"We saw an opportunity to fill a void in the burger business, which has plenty of quick-service burger joints; a number of traditional, better burger establishments; and even upscale, full-service burger restaurants," said Mark Johnston, chief concept officer of Front Burner Brands, management company for Burger 21. "The Burger 21 concept defines its own category – beyond the better burger – and offers quality, premium ingredients, innovative recipes and a gourmet experience without the gourmet price."

Burger 21's menu and recipes are chef-inspired with many of the craft burgers, shakes, fries and dipping sauces originally created under the guidance of a classically trained chef. Guests can select from 11 hand-crafted beef burgers made from fresh ground chuck or one of the 10 beef-alternative burgers made with sushi-grade Ahi Tuna, shrimp, turkey, chicken, vegetables or black beans.

"Since opening the doors to our first restaurant less than a year ago, Burger 21 has received rave reviews in Tampa and has experienced impressive sales that are exceeding the company's expectations and other select better burger concepts," said Bob Johnston, CEO of Front Burner Brands. "We have fine-tuned the concept and leveraged our collective franchising experience to create an innovative restaurant that is positioned for enormous growth."

Burger 21 has recently embarked on an aggressive growth strategy that includes initial development efforts focusing on Florida and extending into select markets along the East Coast. Over time, Burger 21 will broaden its expansion efforts into markets in the Midwest and along the West Coast.