Blanc Burgers and Bottles of Kansas City has every right to borrow the line of fellow Missouri native Mark Twain who said, “Rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.” It seems that for the past several months, many have been predicting the closing of Blanc’s flagship restaurant on the Country Club Plaza. These rumors have been met with a chuckle from Blanc owner, Ernesto Peralta. I sat down with Ernesto recently to discuss the future direction of the local chain. Based on this conversation, I feel confident that Blanc is positioning themselves for success in the years to come.
There have been many justifications given by the Blanc doubters for the dire predictions. Some believed that the upscale burger was simply a fad. Others pointed to a pair of very notable departures. Many believed that their use of Groupons was a bad omen. A few even pointed to the rise of competition in the premium burger niche. I should admit that I believed some of these justifications as well.
After speaking with Ernesto, I believe that the company is poised to overcome each of these issues and continue to be Kansas City’s best burger restaurant. Burgers are one of the quintessential American foods. A good burger will never be a passing fad. The sudden departures of a talented chef and manager were certainly obstacles to overcome, but they have been very capably replaced by a new team of talented and experienced professionals. The Groupons are a thing of the past. The restaurant is beyond the need for cheap marketing and has changed their pricing structure to offer value all the time. While the market does offer more premium burger focused restaurants than before, none have the location or broad name recognition of Blanc.
Blanc is completing a transition, but it is one based on maturity. With five years of being Kansas City’s best burger restaurant under their belt, they are transitioning towards a sustainable business model. They opened the restaurant knowing that they needed to introduce the concept of innovative premium burgers to the market. They also lead the charge to establish Kansas City as a craft beer mecca. Judging from the number of imitators in both areas, they were highly successful. They also recognized that in order to outlive the lifespan of the premium burger trend, they needed to focus on sustainability in their business model. This meant expanding their offerings beyond burgers and offering more of what their guests wanted.
The new menu at Blanc features a carnitas burger and chicken caprese sandwich that equal the quality of burgers. These companions to the existing offerings broaden the appeal of the menu for those guests who prefer an alternative to the burger selections. The beer menu has been trimmed to a very respectable 90 offerings. It also now contains many of the more commonly requested beers rather than focusing on the obscure. The focus is on providing the guests with the beverage options they want. This means including some domestic beers at the expense of adding yet another brand of IPA. They also recognize their role on the Plaza as an introduction to Kansas City for tourists. This is why they have continued their commitment to providing and outstanding selection of Boulevard products.
The future of Blanc is not based on being the most innovative burger restaurant or being the first to offer 400 beers. The future is being built on a customer focused experience. This has lead to an increase in server training. More training and testing is taking place now for their staff to improve the service and knowledge they can provide their guests. They are trying to provide an environment that is hip, but also family friendly. They are taking greater pride in their local roots and focusing more on supporting the local community rather than simply providing discounts and coupons. They are driven to create a sustainable business model that is centered on their guests and their community.
The future of Blanc Burgers and Bottles is as bright as the white walls in their dining room. Kansas City has lost many great restaurants that tried to focus on fads rather than sustainability. Blanc has learned well from this lesson. They are not the new or trendy restaurant anymore which has lead to dire predictions from those who are seeking out the next new thing. Blanc has set a course for sustainability. This will serve them well for a very bright future in Kansas City.