How Smashburger’s founder comes up with ideas

Smashburger founder Tom Ryan
Smashburger founder Tom Ryan speaks with 24 Hour News 8's Marlee Ginter on June 7, 2017.

GRAD RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The man behind many of the foods we love — like Pizza Hut’s stuffed-crust pizza, the McDonald’s McGriddle and Smashburger — is a Grand Rapids native.

Tom Ryan, a Grand Rapids West Catholic Central and Michigan State University graduate, was back in his hometown to speak at the ACG Western Michigan Breakfast Thursday morning, where he was awarded the Hometown Hero Award.

Before he founded Smashburger, he came up with the McDonald’s Dollar Menu.

“Most of the ideas, whether it’s stuffed crust or McGriddles or even Smashbuger, actually started with a business opportunity,” Ryan told 24 Hour News 8 on Wednesday. “Obviously the outcome is a really creative expression of taking something people are very familiar with and just changing it enough to make them see something they can already attach to and say, ‘I’ve never had one that way.'”

He said Smashburger was a prime example of that, calling it the “burger chain for the next generation.” He said the promise of something new draws people in.

“They’re a bite away from believing,” he said.

==Watch the full interview with Ryan above.==