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Fatburger Opens First Restaurant in New York City

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Fatburger, the iconic Los Angeles burger chain, has opened its first of 10 restaurants in New York City.

Fatburger, started nearly 60 years ago and known as a celebrity hangout, has 150 restaurants and additional 300 stores either under construction or in development across the U.S. and internationally. Last year the company's system-wide sales totaled $100 million, up 22% from 2011.

It clearly intends to repeat their success on the West Coast and elsewhere in New York City through its partnership with the Riese Organization, a large restaurant management company in New York that has approximately 50 restaurants in its portfolio including such brands as T.G.I. Friday's, Tim Horton's (THI), Yum! Brands (YUM - Get Report) Pizza Hut and KFC. The Riese Organization has also developed its own proprietary concepts including Tad's Steaks and Tequilaville, according to its Web site.

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The first Fatburger restaurant, located in Manhattan's Murray Hill area, will also feature a full-service bar and is open to 1am.

At the same time as the store's opening, Fatburger also recently began selling its signature frozen beef patties in 3,100 Wal-Mart Stores (WMT - Get Report) across the U.S.

Also see: Fatburger CEO: We'll Survive The Better Burger Shakeout

TheStreet had a chance to talk with Fatburger CEO Andy Wiederhorn at the restaurant's newest location. An edited transcript follows.

Does Fatburger have appeal outside of the West Coast?

Wiederhorn: The brand has been in the East Coast before. We're in Atlantic City, Washington, D.C. and Florida. This is really the burger that everyone likes. It's Hollywood's favorite burger. Bringing it to the East Coast is exciting. [We have] no concerns about whether the product will be well received here.

Is it difficult to franchise in New York? There's some unique challenges associated with New York City, such as high rent?

Wiederhorn: Finding the right franchise partner in New York City is very difficult. We worked really hard and took a long time to find the right partner in the Riese Organization. They operate 110 New York City restaurants and that really gave us the comfort that they have the ability to navigate ... businesses in New York. You have to find the right access to real estate, employee and distribution to make it work. And that's what'll make Fatburger successful here.
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