The BurgerFi restaurant chain’s second Upstate New York location is scheduled to open at 11 a.m. Wednesday in the Albany County suburb of Latham. The franchise is a joint venture between a prominent local auto dealership family and a noted fine dining restaurateur. They also are developing a second venue, in Saratoga Springs.
The first BurgerFi is located at 860 New Loudon Road (Route 9) in Latham in a shopping strip owned by Bill Lia Jr., Michael Lia and Vincent Lia. Their Lia Auto Group owns a variety of new and used car dealerships offering about a dozen different makes. Their partner in the restaurant project is Angelo Mazzone, founder of Mazzone Hospitality which operates numerous restaurants and food services throughout the area. Among them are Angelo’s 677 Prime in Albany, Angelo’s Tavolo at The Glen Sanders Mansion in Scotia, Prime at Saratoga National in Saratoga Springs, Tala Bistro in Latham, and Aperetivo Bistro in Schenectady, along with multi-level catering businesses and industrial food services.
This is just the latest entry of a burger-centric restaurant chain into the Capital Region. In the past few years such brands as Smashburger, Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Juicy Burgers & More, Burger 21, and Elevation Burger have opened venues or announced the intention to do so despite the presence of many of the older chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s. BurgerFi, a contraction of the sort-of word “burgerfication,” is headquartered in North Palm Beach, Fla., and will have 60 locations once the two are opened in the Capital Region. While there are a number of BurgerFi locations on Long Island, the only current one Upstate is located in Poughkeepsie.
BurgerFi calls itself “less burger joint, more gourmet restaurant.” Although its centerpiece food is never-frozen, grass-fed Angus beef, its menu is broader than that of many burger chains. According to a company website pronouncement, “BurgerFi picks up where the other ‘better burger’ franchises leave off. First, BurgerFi focuses on all-natural, free-range beef. We do this because it tastes better, and it’s better for you — with no chemicals, and no additives. Also, where others limit their menu to just the basic, no-frills options, BurgerFi has built a menu with specialty items like Kobe beef hot dogs, gourmet toppings, delectable desserts, craft beer and wine, and an overall focus on a healthier menu selection.”
This is not the first time an auto dealer and a restaurateur have joined forces for a Capital Region food venture. Back in 1999, Yono and Donna Purnomo uprooted their popular downtown Albany operation, the Indonesian restaurant Yono’s, and moved it to a newly-themed Armory Center on the western edge of the city owned by the Metzner family, a longtime auto dealer. They also ran a quick-service lunch spot inside the car dealership showroom. That was supposed to be the centerpiece of a series of shops arranged on two levels around the showroom floor. The arrangement lasted until 2004, when the Purnomos moved their restaurant to the Hampton Inn at 25 Chapel Street in downtown Albany added a sister operation, the casual DP: An American Brasserie, under the supervision of their son, Dominick, plus an events planning service, all under the Purnomo Hospitality umbrella. The Armory Center went back to being exclusively an auto dealership.