Big Mac killer? Chinese burger joint opens on Fifth Avenue

Uncle Sam Fast Food to launch first US store at 307 Fifth Ave.

Jul.July 30, 2014 06:10 PM

A Beijing-based hamburger chain indebted to high- and low-brow American grub has inked a lease to open its first U.S. restaurant on a stretch of Fifth Avenue in NoMad that just happens to be bookended by Shake Shack and McDonald’s.

Uncle Sam Fast Food has signed a 5,600 square-foot retail lease at 307 Fifth Avenue, where it expects to open its first U.S. flagship store by year’s end.

“What they’re trying to do is create the perfect Chinese-American – or American-Chinese – burger,” said Newmark Grubb Knight Frank broker Dennis Karr, who represented Uncle Sam in the deal along with NGKF’s Jonathan Krivine and Jessica Tu of CJ Net Inc. “They have additional restaurants in China and they’re using this somewhat as a laboratory for reaching customers.”

“It’s meant to be competitive level with Shake Shack,” added Karr, who declined to comment on the specific price his client paid but pointed out that asking rents in the immediate area average about $200 per square foot.

Perched on Fifth Avenue between 31st and 32nd Streets, the restaurant will be about two blocks away from a Wendy’s, Smashburger and McDondald’s to its north and nine blocks from the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.

The Uncle Sam chain is owned by Beijing entrepreneur Bai Zhiming, according to China Daily USA. Zhiming could not be immediately reached for comment, but earlier this year his company registered US trademarks for the names Uncle Sam’s Famous American Burger and Uncle Sam’s.

Beijing got its first McDonald’s in 1992 – a massive eatery with seating for 700. There are more than 2,000 restaurants under the golden arches in China, where the company’s corporate mascot is known as Uncle McDonald.

Karr said the team looked in areas like Times Square and the West Village but decided on NoMad due to a high volume of foot traffic from office workers and tourists.

Landlord Elijah Equities was repped by Brad Cohen of SCG Retail. The company bought the building for $15.33 million in 2006.

Challenging MacDonald’s or Shake Shack may be a difficult act for Uncle Sam to pull off. But it may fare better than the previous occupant of the space — deli Café Feastro. That eatery opened in 2009, according to Yelp reviews, and has been closed since November.

Noted one Yelp reviewer of that establishment: “Quantity over quality at the buffet over here. This has that last ‘because i can’ plate at a buffet written all over it. 7$ for the large to-go bowl and it’s based on size not weight. What… really? Ya really.”

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