Dean Loring is CEO of Burger Lounge.
Q: Burger Lounge is on its fifth and sixth locations in San Diego. Do you think the burger market will soon be saturated in San Diego?
A: It is possible the entire restaurant business is saturated. That said, brands that execute through best practices and a commitment to their guests will find success in our industry.
Q: What has made Burger Lounge such a local success, allowing it to grow to six locations within three years?
A: Timing is helpful and our concept is easy to understand. Our mantra is to "do a common thing uncommonly well." We work tirelessly at improving our products and service. We cannot afford to rest on our laurels. Success can bring complacency and the belief that you are better than you really are. It's best not to believe your own press. It forces you to be better every day.
Q: Do you think the San Diego consumer is now more conscientious of green-certified restaurants, such as Burger Lounge, and the impact restaurants have on the environment? If so, why?
A: The carbon footprint of restaurants per square foot is huge. We move a lot of matter and create a lot of waste. The public gets it but another way to look at it is to ask yourself, "why not do it?" The conspicuous absence of good environmental practices in many businesses surprises me more. Our certification process is positive because it forces us to implement new environmental strategies in order to remain certified. It's like we have an environmental mom around to make sure we brush our teeth and make our bed.
Q: The Burger Lounge food philosophy is simple. There aren't a lot of menu items. How did you know that would work so well when the consumer today is so familiar with having countless menu options?
A: People's lives are complicated enough. I think the simplicity of Burger Lounge is refreshing to people. On the other hand, executing our menu and service is not as simple as it looks. People don't complain about spending $12 for a martini, but give them an $8 hamburger and they will find a million things wrong with it. It takes a lot of components to make that product right and when you commit to using whole food and sustainable ingredients, the margin for error increases even more. The nuances matter and getting it right every time is a big challenge.
Although our menu is small, our goal is to satisfy many different appetites. That is why we offer a proprietary Quinoa-based vegetarian hamburger and fine dining quality salads. Not everyone wants a hamburger.
Q: What do you think the food trends for San Diego, and even the nation, will be in the next five years?
A: When I look into my crystal ball I see images of Kimchi Bars on every corner? I'm kidding. Since I don't have a crystal ball, I will offer this: special occasion restaurants that offer traditional appetizer, main course, dessert are becoming an endangered species. It takes a big investment and you cannot make money on three busy nights per week. What we're missing in San Diego is a three meal a day restaurant that offers value and authenticity. A place you can go every day and expect great service and interesting food made from real ingredients. I live downtown and I want someone to open that place. I also want more "grab and go" places that do just a few things very well.
Q: How do you stay fresh in the minds of your customers?
A: Staying relevant is a challenge for every operator. The key in my opinion is to continually improve and reinvest in your concept. We view every capital expense as an investment in our brand. Whether it is creating a positive environment for employees or remodeling a dining room, it all adds up to paying attention to the details and continually viewing your business through the eyes of the guest. It sounds like a simple formula. I wish it were.
Chat with Dean at Info@burgerlounge.com.
Jeff Pinkley, senior event manager at the San Diego Convention Center, was recently recognized for his professional achievements by being named 2010 Distinguished Convention Services Manager of the Year by the Professional Convention Management Association.
The award recognizes outstanding achievement in the field of convention services. Pinkley was acknowledged for his professionalism, as well as his dedication to his clients and the students he mentors from SDSU's Hospitality and Tourism Management Program.
Southern-style restaurant, Big John's Rhythm City Grill, recently opened at San Marcos' historic Old California Restaurant Row.
The restaurant is owned by North Carolina native John Johnson and Manager George Qualls from Louisiana.
The restaurant also features live Jazz or Blues on the Patio each Friday, Saturday and Sunday.