Phyllis Kimber Wilcox |
Americans eat a lot of hamburgers and believe it or not, California is the burger capital of the country, home to more burger joints than any other state.
One small business in the City of San Bernardino, the Smacked Burger Shack, is competing for a share of the state’s hamburger market.
Hamburgers, the nation’s most popular sandwich, have also come to represent patriotism, almost on par with hot dogs and apple pie. Some readers may be surprised to learn hamburgers were referred to as “Liberty Sandwiches,” during World War I. In addition to their popularity at restaurants and fast food establishments, these popular sandwiches are also a staple at many summer cookouts.
Americans Enjoy Their Hamburgers
Although the burger industry faces the same challenges as most other fast food offerings as the nation wrestles with issues of obesity. It also faces unique issues related to the environmental impact of beef production due to greenhouse gas emissions. Despite these concerns, a recent survey showed 51 percent of respondents still acknowledged they enjoy eating hamburgers more often than any other restaurant food.
Certainly, today’s hamburger industry remains dominated by franchises like McDonalds and Burger King, among others, however, many hamburger connoisseurs still crave the authentic taste of burgers made by hand as offered by small, independently owned burger joints. Proving among the great number of people that eat at restaurants, there remains a niche for independent burger joints.
According to BusinessInsider, Americans eat out 5.9 times a week on average and when you consider this in conjunction with the nation’s love of hamburgers it may help explain why the burger industry earned a mind boggling $200 billion in 2015 and was expected to have an annual growth of 2.5 percent a year for the next several years—another indication there is room in the burger industry for independently owned and operated burger joints.
Experts say the burger industry has longevity in part because the hamburger is portable, affordable and can be customized.
Competition in the Burger Industry
While burger giants like McDonald’s and Burger King continue battling it out over which will be the largest franchise in the world, ‘Mom and Pop’ burger joints continue to make their mark and hold a share of the burger market. They usually do this by offering larger portions or having specialty items on the menu.
The Smacked Burger Shack in San Bernardino is Black-owned and operated.
Striving to bring fresh ingredients and delicious food to residents of the city, “is what it’s all about,” explained owner, Anthony Toney, as he described what inspires his commitment to his business and the customers he serves.
Originally from Los Angeles (LA) where legendary burger joints and burger stands are everywhere, Toney wanted to bring the same delicious burger options to the Inland Empire.
Bringing the LA. Burger Syle to the IE
Inspired by those iconic LA eateries he decided to open a place of his own. He did so during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in December 2020. While similar establishments struggled to make it or closed last year, Toney took a prudent risk and opened the Smacked Burger Shack.
It appears the bet Toney made on himself and his culinary skills are paying off. Toney recently told the Black Voice News he is happy with the restaurant’s growth and affirmed that today, the business is exactly where he wants it to be.
Toney was not alone in betting on himself and his family in 2020. An annual study by the Kauffman Foundation and as reported by the LA Times, found more new Black-owned businesses opened their doors in 2020 proportionate to the total population than at any other time in the last 25 years, out-pacing new businesses started by Whites or Asian Americans.
“Smacked Burger Shack is a family-owned business [and] on any given day you can find family members helping out,” Toney offered. Both his mother and his wife take turns being at the restaurant to lend a hand.
Family-owned restaurants across the country, regardless of what they serve, restaurant travel guide Eater notes, usually have one thing in common when they open their doors and invite customers in, “to uphold their family’s legacy through food, drink, and hospitality.” And, when it comes to eating out, Americans focus on taste, price, and quality, in that order.
Inland Area Customers Weigh-In
Heather W. of San Bernardino, posted on Facebook about her experience at Toney’s restaurant and seemed to bear witness to Smacked Burger Shack’s delivery on those expectations. Commenting about the food and service she wrote, “Delicious. . . Great service. Very friendly. But most of all, delicious burgers. Oh, and the Kool-Aid was pretty great.”
Guillermo M., of Rancho Cucamonga, seemed to agree. “[I] was looking for a good burger spot in the area, the Smacked Burger Shack popped up with good reviews. Stopped in kinda early like 11:30-ish, so no wait or line. Ordered the Smacked Classic Cheeseburger, added chili, and the meal [came with] fries and a drink . . . Burger was good, real good, like a good ole fat home-made burger, nice and tasty. Some good-seasoned fries as well. This place definitely [has] a good thing going, will definitely be back.”
On the menu are various burgers from the Baby Smacked Burger to the Smacked Classic Cheeseburger to the Smacked Daddy Classic Burger, “all are made to order,” Toney boasted. If you’re not into beef, look no further. Smacked Burger offers turkey burgers, chicken, and hotlink sandwiches.
When asked about their best-selling item Toney replied, “I get asked this quite often, and as it turns out, the customers love Smack Burger’s build your own fries’ option.” He went on to explain the toppings for the build your own fries include, “Steak, chicken, shrimp, crab or a combination of chicken and shrimp, crab and shrimp, steak and shrimp. You also have a choice of dipping sauces.”
Although 86 percent of all burger joints are chains, among those that are independently owned and operated in the Inland Empire, Smacked Burger Shack is one burger joint you may want to add to your list of places to eat.
Snack Burger Shack is located in San Bernardino at 799 W. Baseline Street, telephone number (909) 453-0501. You can also place orders via Yelp or DoorDash and can follow Snack Burger Shack on Facebook and Intagram @smackedburgershack.
Phyllis Kimber-Wilcox is a reporter for Black Voice News. Her interests are the intersections of historic events with contemporary realities and their impacts on the persistent social, structural and economic barriers which continue to adversely affect and limit Black lives with an eye toward community-based solutions.