Eat Brgz, a Washington, D.C. burger concept that offers “fix-ins” mixed into the patty, is poised for growth.
After launching in the city’s Eastern Market neighborhood three years ago, a second unit opened in the heart of D.C.'s Chinatown in early May.
Borrowing from the custom-built fast-casual pizza segment — and maybe a beat from the ice cream mix-in technique — a “brg” is a blend of meat, vegetables, other proteins, cheeses, and spices, all mixed up directly into the patty and cooked to order.
“There has been nothing super different done as far as burgers go. I always made my burger this way, and everyone loved it. With the pizza revolution such as MOD Pizza, you get a truly customized pizza. This is a creative burger concept that addresses the gap in the market,” founder and CEO Brandon Gaynor explained.
Customers pick a choice of three patties: dry-aged Roseda Farms beef, chicken, or Impossible Foods plant-based alternative. The brgz can be on potato rolls; or there’s a gluten-free upgrade to a house cauliflower bun made of vegetables, eggs, and cheese. There’s also a kale salad bowl option.
People can make their own burger blends or opt for one of nine “signature brgz,” ranging from an approachable Basic (bacon, onion, pickles, cheddar and "basic" seasoning), to a Buffalo-chicken variety with blue cheese, scallions, celery, and carrots. All brgz come topped with lettuce and tomato, with everything else on the side.
Burgers start at $9.75, and sides of fries or crispy Brussels sprouts run $3.10 to $5. A kid’s menu features a grilled cheese, chicken nuggets, and burgers. Their proprietary low-fat, protein-packed milkshakes are also available, in flavors such as Hershey's chocolate or strawberry.
At the 53-seat new unit in Chinatown, orders are taken via a kiosk, at the bar or via text.
"A huge component of our customer interactions is the explanation of the concept. We have to let them know that everything is inside the patty, and although it might look different than what they know, it tastes just like it would if this was all stacked," Gaynor said.
About 50% of customers build their own burger, while the remainder pick one of the signature options. The education continues for takeout customers too, to avoid any element of surprise later.
The cook time on the burger is about 2.5 minutes, which is on par with fast-casual spots where people get a fully customized product. For comparison, a fast-casual custom pizza usually ranges between two to three minutes.
At Eat Brgz, restaurants use a clamshell grill that is double sided, allowing them to cook the burgers on both sides at the same time to speed the process.
Eat Brgz also has a proprietary ring that was designed, created and perfected internally used to cook the patties, allowing them to be consistent with the burger size, shape and cook time.
"A key exercise through our evolution is testing. We are constant testing different ideas and looking at the responses. For example, we have learned that we need to put cheese in the patty but also on it. People want to see the cheese," said Gaynor.
They have tested a "dress bar" with lettuce and tomato, where customers can top their own burgers with different sauces, and various other components. "We watch people eat the food and learn from it," he said.
Both signature as well as custom options are made from scratch, with every staff member getting rigorous training. It is so much of a focus that Eat Brgz developed their own platform for digital training, and created videos and prep material.
"We do a lot of cross training and are constantly evolving as we get to a bigger and better business,” Gaynor said.
With this location directly across the Capital One Area and in the middle of a tourist area, the bar component is a huge focus too. Draft cocktails ($9), wines ($7 by the glass) and a variety of beers ($8 drafts) are available.
"We aimed to create an environment that people want to spend time in. The space and vibe is meant to be inviting, clean and comfortable," Gaynor said. "The first store was more of the get-me-in, let-me-eat-and-go vibe. Here we want people to linger. This ethos of the experience is important to us."
Gaynor said the company is shifting into growth mode. While they are currently in the process of scoping out a third location, supply chain and labor shortages continue to cause delays.
The team is focused on organic growth at this time, and "are still learning about the business to explore franchising opportunities,” said Gaynor.