30699 Euclid Ave,
Wickliffe, OH 44092
by Beau Cadiyo
I’m all for gimmicks as part of the sales process provided that the underlying object being sold is good. If it’s not good, a purchase-inducing gimmick is like a peacock’s feathers – puffery designed to deceive. Burger Nuts is just that – instead of being gimmicky to get people in, and then producing quality products to maintain customers, they try to sell the gimmick without anything supporting it.
When we got there on Friday at 6:15 p.m., it was packed with people. The crowd was family-friendly; overweight youngsters ate with overweight parents and overweight grandparents. Save for the two guys in front of us still in sweaty exercise clothes, we may have been the only regular gym-goers in the place.
The first thing that made me suspicious were the piles of potatoes I leaned against while waiting in line. I’m all for putting raw restaurant materials in sight of the customer. It allows the customer to see what they’re getting, and done subtly and well – like at Jimmy John’s – it becomes a part of a beautiful presentation. However, Burger Nuts’ approach was haphazard, obvious and sloppy. Burger Nuts: CLEAN UP.
Second, the menu, while fun, was complicated. Because of the number of choices and the number of toppings, figuring out the order I wanted crossed my eyes. Contrast this with In-N-Out, the famous and absolutely amazing Southern California chain which has about three hamburger options on its menu (but numerous more off-menu). I realize that the gimmick was to give the customer the ability to make their own special burger, but the sheer number of choices made it onerous. Burger Nuts: Simplify.
The nuts are similarly poorly run. When I asked about them, the waitress pointed to the only trash can in the entire restaurant. Perched on top was a large cardboard box containing peanuts. I looked for something to put them in; there were a few tiny metal buckets scattered about on the tables, but they were all full of peanut shells, and using them felt like using someone else’s dirty plate. Burger Nuts: figure out a system.
Fourth, the burgers are never frozen and are supposed to be fully customizable. As soon as I unwrapped burger I was disappointed. The onions and sauce had soaked through the bun, rendering it near-mush. The burger patties, while perhaps never frozen, were not, therefore, good; the beef was almost tasteless, even if it did have a pretty good texture and consistency. Frank Khan was similarly unimpressed with his. Burger Nuts: don’t think that the gimmicks will allow you to get away with a substandard product.
Finally, the potatoes I leaned against (and possibly contaminated) were also supposed to be used for the fresh-cut fries, and the newspaper article I’d read about Burger Nuts gushed about the huge portions. Pshaw. My regular fries would be the equivalent of a McDonald’s small, except that McDonald’s are well-cooked and crispy. Burger Nuts followed the recent trend of producing soggy, limp, tasteless fries. When I got up to get ketchup, the large dispensers were out; regular ketchup bottles had to be shaken to get the remaining ketchup out. I glanced over and saw, piled precariously high, boxes of cooking oil, some leaking out. Looking back into the kitchen there was a large, cavernous space; it couldn’t have been that they were out of storage room. Burger Nuts: make better fries, portion them well, and figure out a system for condiments.
By the time we were finished the restaurant had almost emptied out. Looking at the owner, who I recognized from the article, I felt a mixture of excitement and sadness. It is exciting that he is pursuing his dream for operating a restaurant; it’s sad that his dream couldn’t be better.