Just when it looks like we’ve reached peak burger season, another of the souped-up sandwiches appears. They’re a stalwart of fast casual dining, but some variations are anything but chill.
Enter Betty’s Burgers. The burger hut with beach shack vibes could please the most diehard David Chang acolytes, keeping things simple with a tight menu of just six American-style burgers with sides, thickshakes and concretes — better known as frozen custard ice-creams mixed with ingredients ranging from honeycomb and hot fudge to passionfruit cream and raspberries.
The brand was created when David Hales, Nik Rollison and Michael Tripp saw an opening in the Sunshine Coast’s dining market.
“We saw a gap in the market, particularly in Noosa, for fast casual offerings that were approachable, fresh, fast and appealing to a broad demographic,” says Tripp, Betty’s Burgers head chef.
The trio bounced around a few concepts, landing on burgers after assessing the market against their experiences dining around the world. After collaborating with designer Paul Kelly to tie the look, feel, product and people together in a complete package, Betty’s Burgers was born and the mayhem begun.
“The interest in Betty’s was crazy from day one — we had a franchisor request on the first day the restaurant opened,” says Tripp.
Although that may sound unbelievable for a single-venue brand operating in a shire of just over 55,000 people, Noosa turned out to be the perfect test site for what has become a multi-state operation.
“The amount of people who come to Noosa and say ‘We love Betty’s, when are you coming to…’ gave us confidence,” says Tripp.
With the number of stores fast approaching 10 and spanning Melbourne, Sydney, the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Toowoomba, as well as Noosa, maybe now is the time to try a franchise model.
“At this stage, we haven’t actually entertained it at all,” says Tripp. “One, we aren’t there yet. Two, we really want to maintain control. We want to hire the people and we want to control the product that goes out.”
What does complete control look like and how do they achieve it? To begin with lot of Betty’s ingredients are made in-house — including the sauces — or prepped from scratch.
“We want a homemade feel. That’s what’s made us what we are and we don’t want to lose that. So we don’t want things to be too systematic or look too perfect,” says Tripp. “We don’t want the buns to be cooked in a mold or the patties to be perfectly round. Nothing should be too processed.”
Avoiding a cookie-cutter approach doesn’t mean consistency isn’t a concern though, and when it comes to achieving it, training is key says Tripp.
“Attention to detail, consistency and communication are our three biggest standpoints,” he says. “We hire people with the right attitude and train them for skill. Getting people to understand how things should look and taste as well as the reasons why.”
Training is implemented by Hales, Rollison and Tripp along with their team of operations managers, who oversee a minimal number of stores each.
“We work in the business regularly, manning the grills and shop floor,” says Tripp. “We have a close network of people who have worked side-by-side with us that we’ve trained to replicate the IP regardless of location.”
When it comes to other aspects of the business, Tripp recommends taking a store-by-store approach.
“There are a lot of variables based on location, whether it be city or regional or a shopping centre. Staffing, opening times, approach to market and advertising all need to adjust from store to store,” he says.
One thing that does hold true for all venues is the caliber of service.
“There doesn’t need to be as many steps or details when it comes to service, but whether you’re paying $10 for a cheeseburger or $350 for a degustation, the level of service needs to be relative to the value,” says Tripp. “If you’re going to spend $20 on a meal, did the experience exceed your expectations? Was there value for money?”
At a glance
When was the business established?
The flagship store was launched in Noosa in December 2014.
Number of locations? Noosa, Surfers Paradise, Robina, Melbourne, Toowoomba, Sydney, Broadbeach, Darling Harbour, Chermside and Newstead.
Number of staff?
Best-selling menu items? The classic burger, chocolate thickshake and the crispy chicken.
Biggest challenge facing the business in 2017?
Keeping quality consistent while opening numerous new stores
Growth plans for the year ahead?
Betty’s Burgers is looking to open up approximately six new restaurants in the next financial year.
This article was originally published in Hospitality’s September issue. Click here to subscribe.