ArgentIne Daniel Cocchia, founder of La Birra Bar
Argentune Daniel Cocchia, founder of ´La Birra´ Bar in Miami. Daniel Cocchia

Argentine entrepreneur Daniel Cocchia (49) is no stranger to thriving amid crises. In 2001 he succesfully launched his first gastronomic venture in Buenos Aires in the middle of one of the most significant economic downturns in the South American country's history. Not only he settled his debts but also began his flagship venture: craft burger restaurant La Birra Bar.

The brand gained attention for its disruptive approach at the time, which was delivering a higher quality product rather than churning out as many burgers as possible. The key to its success undoubtedly lies in its signature bread, also referred to as "pan de nube" (cloud bread, in English) or, as its followers fondly call it, "la almohada inteligente" (the smart pillow) due to its ability to sink and re-inflate.

What started as a family business soon transformed into a franchise with a dozen locations across Argentina. But a new dream had taken root in Daniel's mind: to compete in the 'mecca' of burgers, the United States. He had started working towards it, but the COVID-19 pandemic nearly derailed the entire project.

Messi Burger at La Birra Bar Miami
Lionel Messi's Burger at La Birra Bar Miami Daniel Cocchia

However, once again, the businessman weathered the storm. His Miami branch not only secured the title of the city's 'best burger' for two consecutive years, according to Miami New Times, but was also deemed the best one in the country in the SOBEWFF Burger Bash 2022 and consdered the 'best eatery' in the People's Choice Awards in North Miami BrewFest 2023, produced by the Florida International University (FIU).

The 'Golden Burguer', Cocchia's favorite, is the most acclaimed product at La Birra Bar. "A super simple burger with which we won an award as the best burger in the United States. It includes the bread we make, meat, cheese, very small red onions and a special sauce. And I think that in that simplicity lies a lot of the power of our flavors. You feel like you're eating a barbecue between the buns.," he explains in an interview with The Latin Times.

Given Miami's significant Latino population and its potential as a showcase to other markets, the city held a special appeal for Daniel. While there are now three other Argentine burger joints in Miami, 'La Birra Bar' was the first to muster the courage to take that leap.

'La Birra Bar' has earned its status as a Miami classic, particularly following the FIFA World Cup and Lionel Messi's arrival at Inter Miami. Naturally, the world's number one soccer player has a burger named in his honor on the menu—the Messy Burger.

La Birra Bar is just getting started. It has already opened 14 locations in Buenos Aires, two in Madrid, it will open one in Chile in March and another one in Miami (14831 Biscayne Boulevard, North Miami Beach).

It will also open spots in Wynwood (in January 2024) and Times Square, New York City.

-How did you decide to open the Miami spot in 2021?

The idea originated on a trip in 2016 when I came to do research in the United States, which is considered the mecca of burgers. I wanted to see how my product was positioned in comparison to what was happening in the United States. I visited more than 20 joints and I realized that not only was our product on par with U.S. products, but it also had an upside, which was the absolute craftsmanship with which we operated. I imagined opening a spot in the United States in the future. It could be something interesting, I thought, as it gave us the opportunity to showcase what we were doing and play in the big leagues.

La Birra Bar won 2023 Best EATERY Brewfest FIU USA.
Among other milestones, La Birra Bar won the 2023 Best EATERY Brewfest FIU USA and the 2022 SOBEWFF Burger Bash Miami for Best Burger in the U.S. Daniel Cocchia

-How was that process?

We started planning it, talking to local developers, looking for potential locations, finalizing investment issues and figuring out how to shape all of this. Then the pandemic hit, but far from slowing us down, it made us much sharper. Everything related to the ongoing search for locations and suppliers and the brand's development, all was done remotely until the possibility of traveling opened up. We flew here, I think, in March, and by August, we had already opened the first location.

-How did the Miami restaurant turned out?

-Well, the truth is it was an absolute success. We won the award for best hamburger in the United States. We won the award two years in a row for the best burger in Miami. A few weeks ago, we won again as the Best Hamburger Joint in Miami, also for the third time, and we positioned ourselves among the top five hamburger joints in the world for two consecutive years.

ArgentIne Daniel Cocchia, founder of La Birra Bar
ArgentIne Daniel Cocchia, founder of La Birra Bar in Miami Daniel Cocchia

-What makes La Birra Bar's burger stand out?

The burger of La Birra Bar has differentiators that truly place it in a different league. It is an entirely artisanal product in all of its franchises: in Argentina, in Spain, in Chile soon and here in the United States. Nothing is left to chance, nothing lacks our DNA. First, our signature bread, baked daily before each dispatch in all the locations worldwide. This already gives us a huge differential. Secondly, our meat, a blend composed of three different cuts with a specific amount of fat, is processed daily in the locations. We use a blend of Argentinian meat in all the places where we are, creating a flavor profile that feels like you're eating an 'asado' (Argentinian barbecue). You sense that in any La Birra Bar location, anywhere in the world.

-But are there differences between the hamburger commonly found in Argentina and that of the United States?

In the United States, the industrialization of the product is enormous, which is neither good nor bad. It's different. Many burger joints can source from the right suppliers and have a decent product to offer. Something similar is happening in Buenos Aires. This makes the product level good but very similar because suppliers are limited, and different burger joints start using the same suppliers, ending up with a very similar profile.

La Birra Bar was selected asthe best burger in Miami.
La Birra Bar won 'Best Burger' in the Best of Miami 2023 by Miami New Times. Daniel Cocchia

-¿Is the quality similar?

The average Argentine burger joint is well positioned compared to the United States, which I consider the mecca of hamburgers. Europe is also a mecca today. Actually, all of this is part of a trend in the sophistication of the hamburger product worldwide that has been happening for several years. I believe that the wave has already reached its peak, and today it may be starting to decline, but that will only create even better opportunities for those of us who do things well.

-There were no Argentine burger joints in Miami when you arrived. Why did you choose this city?

The decision to enter the U.S. market through Miami was driven by a sense of security, facilitated by a more relaxed language environment and a substantial Spanish-speaking population. Miami's cultural familiarity, with a significant Latino presence, allowed us to communicate our product more effectively. I think three months after opening, we were already participating in an event called Best of Miami. And four months later, we were starting to be classified as the best hamburger in the United States. I think it was a good decision to start in Miami. Today, we could expand to any place in the United States because not only do we already have a reputation, but we understand a bit about how to navigate in this new culture.

'It's not soccer, it's fulbo', the message in the MessyBurguer
'It's not soccer, it's fulbo', the message in the burguer named after Lionel Messi, at La Birra Bar. La Birra Bar

-What challenges did you face as a Latino in starting the business?

Then, the challenges were enormous. The United States is a country with a lot of bureaucracy, where you need to do things very well from scratch, and that has a fairly high level of complexity. Now it also has a fairly high reward, which is that once you meet all the requirements they propose, the business flows. There are much fewer things to worry about than, for example, in our country, Argentina. Obviously, issues like inflation practically do not exist here, and issues of stock from suppliers are not a problem either because there are many. Yes, reaching that point has its complexity; you have to put in a lot of effort, a lot of patience. And be open to the ways things are done here. But once you enter that circle, you get used to it; the truth is that it is quite satisfying to set up a business in the United States.

You started working in a family rotisserie when you were a child, then opened your own burger joint. It went so well that you managed to open 14 of them in Argentina and now you're succeeding in, as you call it, 'the mecca of the hamburger.' How do you feel after this entire journey?

The gratification is immense, especially when someone close to you brings you back down to earth and says, well, look, we were in this place, and now we're in this one. Sometimes, it's even challenging for me to internalize it because, as I mentioned, there was never a plan to reach a particular point; it was about 'paddling' day by day to try to keep up with the events. That approach led me, my family, and everyone who makes up the brand to be where we are today. The truth is, I try not to abandon it. I want to continue down that path.

-Do you consider La Birra Bar to still be a family business?

We don't feel like entrepreneurs, not by a mile. We are just a family and genuinely enjoy what we do. It becomes playful trying to find something to improve every day in the entire structure, in the hundreds of facets it has, and it truly keeps me entertained, especially when you have your family working alongside you. Both my wife and one of my children are fundamental—they handle crucial tasks from Human Resources to development monitoring, paying attention to the details. They are involved in everything and are the backbone of this project, giving me a sense of security. I feel very comfortable working this way. Although we are sometimes physically separated, it's really good. After that super-reduced core, practically the whole team follows, becoming part of our extended family

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