Among the restaurant concepts that view the current market climate as ripe for expansion is Zinburger, an upscale casual chain that specializes in the pairing of burgers and wine. Currently, Zinburger operates just four restaurants nationwide—three in Arizona and one in New Jersey.

But in the coming years, Brad Honigfeld, CEO of The Briad Group, a Livingston, N.J.-based franchise operator, hopes to speed up Zinburger openings east of the Mississippi potentially up to 10 a year. Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Fox Restaurant Concepts, which originated the chain in 2007, is handling Zinburger’s growth in Western states. It plans to open between three and five new restaurants annually in the next few years.

Given the improved outlook on the economy, Honigfeld feels consumers are more likely to splurge a little, and now and then treat themselves to a $14 Kobe burger with cheddar cheese and wild mushrooms, or an $8 bacon bloody (that’s a cocktail of bacon-infused Skyy vodka, Worcestershire, pepper and bacon strip garnish). Plus, the Zinburger concept has been getting the green light from major property owners, including Simon Property Group, General Growth Properties and the Westfield Group.

“The store in [Clifton], New Jersey has been highly successful,” Honigfeld notes. “We have about 17 high-quality menu items; it’s a limited menu, but with great selection of burgers. The meat is [ground] several times a day in a very cold environment; the bread is delivered twice a day fresh, so the ingredients are very high quality. And it’s just a great concept; it’s a change from mass casual. So the big developers have recognized that.”

In addition to there being a better consumer environment, it’s still possible for restaurant operators to get reasonable deals from landlords. Honigfeld notes that asking rents might be a bit higher than a year or two ago, but Briad still has no problem securing build-out allowances that range anywhere from $125 per sq. ft. to $200 per sq. ft.

As a result, The Briad Group plans to open at least two new Zinburger locations this year, and anywhere from five to 10 new restaurants in 2013. One of the restaurants that will open in 2012 will be at Garden State Plaza, a Westfield-owned 2-million-sq.-ft. regional mall in Paramus, N.J. Zinburger will take over a space that was vacated by Napa Valley Grille after its lease ran out earlier this year.

While The Briad Group is not partial to regional malls—it’s also looking to open restaurants at lifestyle centers, mixed-use retail/entertainment complexes and near movie theaters and office buildings—it does prefer the kind of upscale demographic Garden State Plaza is known for. Annual household incomes in the mall’s trade area average $86,000, according to ICSC.

Zinburger would like to be located in areas where incomes trend higher than $80,000 per sq. ft. “We would want to be near centers that are more upscale and geographic areas that are more upscale,” Honigfeld says, adding that Zinburger fits well in high-traffic sites near other restaurants.

Briad will be leasing most of its new sites for 10- to 15-year terms, with several five-year options built in so it could potentially control the spaces for as long as 35 years. Zinburger restaurants average 5,000 sq. ft., with room for about 180 seats.