Setting out with the simple idea of making great tasting grass-fed hamburgers, Burger Lounge’s uncomplicated approach has seen it become a brand recognised for doing a common thing uncommonly well
Although the Burger Lounge brand itself was established in 2007, the idea behind it actually originated some 30 years ago, when founder J. Dean Loring opened Stars Hamburgers in Humboldt County, California. Providing its guests with a simple menu serving grass-fed hamburgers with limited high-quality sides and drinks, it delivered upon the concept of ‘Fast Casual’ dining (quality food served quickly with great service and an elevated design) before the term had even been popularised. Years later, having sold off the original brand, his desire to revisit the restaurant concept he created led to the opening of the first Burger Lounge in La Jolla.
“Burger Lounge serves only the highest quality proteins available, including single-source, grass-fed, grass-finished beef, free-range poultry for our Turkey Burger and organic quinoa, which is the primary ingredient of our Veggie Burger,” explains Adam Rinella, Vice President of Development. “These proteins are the primary differentiator on our menu and allow us to serve amazing food in a cool, comfortable environment.”
The most popular item on said menu is the company’s signature Lounge Burger. “Featuring our single-source grass-fed beef, organic cheese, fresh or grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, and our house 1000 island dressing, the Lounge Burger is amazingly popular and rightly so,” Adam enthuses. “Our Fresh Vegetable Salad with house lemon-basil vinaigrette is also in high demand. It can be complimented with any of our great sources of protein, from grass-fed beef and free-range turkey to our grilled chicken and line-caught Alaskan cod.”
The success of its menu has helped the Burger Lounge brand to grow to 24 stores, the majority of which are found in Southern California. With a 25th store under construction, it is now working to open locations in Northern California and also has a location in Las Vegas at the Aria Resort and Hotel. “Our strategic plan has always been to grow measurably and organically,” Adam reveals. “All of our stores, with the exception of Las Vegas, are company operated. We grow our brand in such a way that allows us to maintain the high quality of food and service we’ve come to be known for.
“When it comes to new stores, we look for neighbourhoods that we think have a high number of residents or daytime business workers who will appreciate the kind of healthy, sustainable food we serve, and approach these areas with a desire to provide better options than those that currently exist. We feel it is important to design a restaurant based on the neighbourhood in which we are building, and when we open that restaurant we become part of the community, and we want to fit in quickly and positively when we do so.”
Arguably at the very heart of the brand’s success is the appeal of its single-source grass-fed beef, but just what is it about this beef that makes for such a high-quality product? “Most importantly, the use of this type of beef allows us to oversee the entire process, from the way the cows are treated, to how the beef is transported – refrigerated and never frozen – and its eventual delivery to our stores,” Adam says. “Grass-fed beef is better for our guests as it is higher in protein, higher in Omega 3 and lower in calories, not to mention the fact that we believe it to be the best tasting beef in the world!”
Behind the scenes of Burger Lounge, its Director of Supply Chain is highly focused on monitoring the quality of its proteins, produce and every single ingredient that is used in its stores. It is his task to constantly source the best available ingredients to not only maintain the high-quality products that it serves, but to continuously improve. “We maintain this approach year-round, as the quality of specific ingredients may change across different seasons. For example, we constantly monitor potato quality and may change the kind we use for our fries multiple times per year,” Adam adds. “Our Director of Supply Chain then works with our Executive Chef and our Operations team to ensure that these high-quality ingredients are being prepped and cooked correctly to deliver the highest quality products to our guests.”
Complementing its food is Burger Lounge’s embracing of new technology, which it accepts is more important than ever. One example of this has been the retrofitting of most of its stores with a table tracking system, called HME Vuze. “Guests receive a pager when they place their order in these stores, and when placed on their table, the pager sends a signal back to a screen mounted at the pass-through window that lets the Expeditor know which table the guest is seated,” Adam explains. “When the food is ready, the Expeditor can instruct the Food Runner to take the order directly to that table instead of having to search for the right guest. This improves our efficiency and ensures the food gets to the table in a timely manner while it is still piping hot. The response to this system has been very positive, and we are now looking to supplement this by researching things like self-ordering kiosks and kitchen display systems.”
Having recently opened its first store in the Sacramento market (in the new Downtown Commons project) to a phenomenal response, the company is excited about its upcoming growth opportunities. “We are looking to open between four and six stores per year, with a potential new market outside of California being established in 2020,” Adam concludes. “We believe that we remain unique in what we do and that our guests have a high degree of appreciation for those differentiators, and that is why the future is bright for Burger Lounge.”