Photo: Hans Im Gluck
Seven years ago, Mrs Gunilla Hirschberger, who is vegan, set herself a goal: To shake up Germany's meat-centric dining scene.
Tired and frustrated with the lack of vegan-friendly offerings at burger restaurants, the 53-year-old Munich-based Swede saw a gap in the market and decided to fill it.
In 2010, she and her German husband, Mr Thomas Hirschberger, 55, opened their first Hans Im Gluck outlet in Munich. The casual gourmet burger restaurant specialises in vegan, vegetarian, beef and chicken burgers served alongside salads, tea infusions and cocktails. They run 49 outlets in Germany and Austria, with more restaurants on the cards for Switzerland and Italy.
Last weekend, they opened their 50th outlet and first outpost in Asia. Located along Orchard Road, Hans Im Gluck is housed in a purpose-built structure situated between the Royal Thai Embassy and International Building. Next year, the couple will open two more outlets here - at 71 Boat Quay and in a ground-floor unit at Republic Plaza in Raffles Place.
They are seasoned restaurateurs who used to run a successful Californian-Mexican restaurant chain with 40 outlets across Germany for 15 years, which they have since sold.
They came to Singapore on a holiday last year and felt an instant connection to the city. On their decision to expand into Singapore, Mrs Hirschberger tells The Straits Times: "Singapore has a good spirit and is full of different kinds of cultures. People here are open-minded and happy to see new things. The city is innovative and has a good flow."
She acknowledges the "high-level" burgeoning burger scene here, but believes there is still room for Hans Im Gluck's healthier European-style offerings.
Named after the famed German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, Hans Im Gluck features imported German-made oak furniture and 180 birch logs that have been installed throughout the restaurant to resemble a German forest.
The menu, which looks like a children's storybook, features 30 burgers with fillings that range from beef patties topped with mushrooms and a sour cream and chive sauce to vegetarian walnut patties with feta cheese and fig jam. Prices start at $15 a burger.
To ensure consistency and quality, the restaurant brings in its own range of housemade sauces, including vegan mayonnaise and orange mustard, as well as multi-grain and sourdough buns, which come frozen and are made exclusively for the chain, from Germany.
For the beef patties, the restaurant opts for fresh Australian minced beef, with a 20 per cent fat-to-meat ratio. Its vegan patties are made with a mixture of corn, spinach, potato and carrots.
The 4,000 sq ft restaurant, which seats 180, is small compared with those the Hirschbergers run in Germany, of which 23 are family-owned and the remaining are franchises. There, restaurants are usually about 10,000 sq ft and feature about 400 seats, excluding the terrace.
The Singapore restaurants are wholly owned by the Hirschbergers, who have three children aged 29, 27 and 17.
The chain is also looking to expand into other parts of Asia, including Hong Kong and Taipei.
Mrs Hirschberger says: "European burgers are healthy and nutritious. Our burgers are different from fast food. We want to offer gourmet burgers in a restaurant setting as proper sit-down meals."
Where: 362 Orchard Road
This article was first published on Straits Times.