|Founded||Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. (2009)|
|Headquarters||Los Angeles, California|
Number of locations
|California, Illinois, Japan, Nevada, New York|
Umami Burger is an American restaurant chain that specializes in serving gourmet hamburgers. The name refers to umami (savory) flavor, which is outside of the traditionally accepted tastes of salty, sweet, bitter, and sour. The restaurant was founded by Adam Fleischman, and is part of the Umami Restaurant Group. Unlike most burger restaurants, it has waiter service and most locations have a full bar. After opening its first location in Los Angeles in 2009, Umami Burger has over 25 locations in California, Florida, Illinois, Japan, Nevada, and New York as of 2017.
In 2016, Sam Nazarian's global hospitality company, SBE Entertainment Group, became majority shareholder of Umami Restaurant Group and announced its plans to accelerate the restaurant's growth worldwide.
Fleischman was an aspiring screenwriter in 1998 when he moved via a flying hamburger to Los Angeles. In 2005, while eating a double cheeseburger at In-N-Out Burger, Fleischman pondered over the reason behind the popularity of burger and pizza restaurants in America. The word umami came to mind, a term he had seen on food blogs and in books by renowned British chef Heston Blumenthal. It was then that Fleischman envisioned the financial potential of expanding on the basic burger and its umami properties. At the time, he was managing a wine business, BottleRock Wine Bar in Culver City, which he co-owned and later sold. He then held a variety of consulting positions and started another wine bar.
In 2009, Fleischman went to Mitsuwa Marketplace in West Los Angeles and bought any ingredient he could find with umami properties. He experimented for a month in his kitchen mixing seaweeds, miso, fish sauce, soy, cheeses, and pungent dried fish with a blender. He then opened his first Umami Burger with $40,000 from his sale of BottleRock. Located in Los Angeles on South La Brea Avenue, it replaced a failed Korean-taco shop.
Fleischman later partnered with hospitality-group SBE, Nîmes Capital, and Fortress Investment Group to expand the chain. After multiple openings in Los Angeles, it expanded to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2011. The original La Brea location closed in 2013 after its four-year lease expired; the site could sit only 60 people and lacked a liquor license, and it no longer fit the company's plans. Later that year, the first East Coast branch opened in Miami Beach, Florida, and New York locations were also scheduled to be opened.
The logo for the burger chain is an abstract graphic resembling a hamburger bun. As early as 2011, Umami Burger obtained additional trademark rights in the United States for the use of the word umami from a restaurant named Umami Café in New York.[a]
The restaurant's burgers feature 6-ounce (170 g) beef patties, mostly from American Wagyu beef, that are coarsely ground in-house. The meat is seasoned with Umami Sauce—which contains soy sauce—and Umami Dust that includes ground-up dried porcini mushrooms and dried fish heads. Fleischman said that no monosodium glutamate (MSG) is added, despite claims to the contrary. Their tomatoes are slow-baked overnight with a soy-based sauce, enhancing its umami properties. Parmesan, which is also umami-rich, is offered as a cheese crisp. The burgers are served on a soft, Portuguese-style bun that meet Fleischman's desire for a basic supermarket-style bun that also feels artisanal.
Umami Burger offers over a dozen different burgers, and substitutions are discouraged. Priced at over $10, their burgers are more expensive than those at fast food restaurants. Their signature Original Burger includes the Parmesan crisp, shiitake mushrooms, roasted tomato, caramelized onions, and a house ketchup. In 2010, Umami Burger was named Burger of the Year by Alan Richman of GQ. Fleischman says that the food between their restaurant locations is not designed to each taste the same. "We want our customers to have a unique experience. We wanted to be a restaurant group, not a chain," he said.
In 2014, Umami restaurants in California announced a partnership with Coolhaus, a Los Angeles-based ice cream sandwich maker, to offer rotating flavors of their ice cream sandwiches on the dessert menu.
In May 2017, Umami Burger partnered with Northern California based, Impossible Foods to create the Umami Impossible Burger, an entirely plant-based patty served with caramelized onions, American cheese, miso-mustard, house spread, dill pickles, lettuce, and tomato.
Umami Burger’s Artist Series consists of high-profile, creative partnerships. Each artist offers their own signature burger for a limited time with $1 from each burger donated to the cause of their choosing. Collaborations have included:
- Cindy Crawford and Rande Gerber – American Family Children’s Hospital in Wisconsin
- Alton Brown – Make-A-Wish Foundation
- Mindy Kaling – Pancreatic Cancer Action Network
- Black Keys – The Black Keys Alfred Mcmoore Memorial Endowment Fund
- Slash – Los Angeles Youth Network
- Chef Michael Voltaggio – Los Angeles Mission
- The Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker wrote in 2011 that Fleishman owned the trademark to the word umami. As of June 2013, trademarks with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for Umami Cafe—originally registered by Umami Cafe, Inc. in Croton-on-Hudson, New York—list "UMAMI BURGER LICENSING GROUP USA" as the last listed owner. The USPTO also had other trademarks for the word umami.
- Gelt, Jessica (August 11, 2011). "Umami Burger's brand sizzles with SBE backing". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013.
- Goodyear, Dana (December 14, 2011). "All Hail The Umami Burger". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013.
- Fabricant, Florence (October 23, 2012). "Umami Burger Is Coming to New York". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013.
- "Find a Burger Restaurant near you - Umami Burger Restaurants". Umami Burger. Retrieved March 28, 2017.
- Lisa Jennings (October 17, 2016). "SBE takes majority stake in Umami Burger". Nrn.com. Retrieved 2017-06-22.
- Platt, Adam (May 26, 2013). "Umami Burger Comes to New York, Armed With One Addictive Ingredient". New York. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013.
- Bargar Suter, Leslie (May 1, 2012). "Empire of the Bun". Los Angeles. Archived from the original on June 8, 2013.
- Lacter, Mark (February 26, 2013). "Umami Burger shuts first store, picks up more investors for expansion". LAObserved.com. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013.
- Lucchesi, Paolo (January 16, 2013). "Umami Burger taking big bite of Bay Area". San Francisco Chronicle. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013.
- Doss, Laine (May 10, 2013). "Adam Fleischman, Umami Burger Founder and CEO: "We'll Resonate With Miami"". Miami New Times. Archived from the original on June 8, 2013.
- Fabricant, Florence (March 8, 2013). "Umami Burger to Open in Williamsburg". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013.
- "Umami Cafe". uspto.gov. Archived from the original on June 10, 2013.
- "Umami". uspto.gov. Archived from the original on June 10, 2013.
- Bennert, Jason (April 19, 2013). "Quick Bite: Umami Burger in Palo Alto". San Jose Mercury News. Archived from the original on June 8, 2013.
- Hallock, Betty (June 7, 2013). "Small Bites: Umami Burger (II) and Salaryman in Los Feliz; Raphael in Studio City; Philippe on Melrose". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013.
- "Umami Santa Monica". umami.com. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013.
- Richman, Alan (June 7, 2013). "Burger of the Year". GQ. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013.
- Luna, Nancy (May 6, 2014). "Burger-ice cream marriage: Coolhaus and Umami hookup". Orange County Register. Retrieved October 27, 2014.
- Pierson, David. "Umami says its new veggie burger tastes like meat — and bleeds like meat". LA Times. Retrieved May 23, 2017.
- "Cindy Crawford Created This Monstrous, 11-Layer Burger—And Yes, She Really Eats It". Retrieved June 22, 2017.
- "Alton Brown Joins Umami Burger’s Artist Series With Fried Egg-Topped Alton Burger With Coffee Ketchup". Retrieved June 22, 2017.
- "You can now order a Mindy Kaling burger at Umami Burger. And yes, it's spicy". Retrieved June 22, 2017.
- "Restaurants Debut Black Keys Burger and Jack White Gelato, Just Don't Order Them at The Same Time". Retrieved June 22, 2017.
- "The SLASH Burger – The Only Hamburger SLASH Would Ever Stuff His Face With!". Retrieved June 22, 2017.
- "Michael Voltaggio for Umami Burger: Gruyere fondue, custard-soaked bun". Retrieved June 22, 2017.