Ladies and gentlemen of the press, my fellow directors and other C-level executives, everyone from the 1-800-BURGERS.biz family, and members of my actual family, thank you all very much for joining me here today, at the northwest corner of 47th Street and Broadway in our fair city, to officially open this flagship store, the new crown jewel... well, that’s as far as I can go with any burger and monarchy metaphor, according to the settlement, but you get my drift, I’m sure. And speaking of drifts, I’ll try to wrap up my remarks before we’re all buried by this snowfall. We’ll have to remember to open our next branch somewhere with nicer weather....
Of course, we’re here, today, because it was just thirty blocks farther uptown and forty years ago, in the winter of 1976, that I opened my original hamburger joint, Funky Burger, where I served some 200 customers each day... and where, I recently learned, my younger brother was selling “baked goods” to another hundred or so out of the back. But that’s not going to be happening at this location, he assures me, not just as my sibling but also as Vice President of Brick and Mortar Operations.
In those early days, the slogan of Funky Burger was “We Grill Up Grins,” which over four decades evolved into “Barbecue the Magic,” then “Better Than Well Done,” to our current “Click, Click... WOW!” But behind the scenes, our watchword has always been “innovation.” The very same spirit of innovation that inspired me to put two beef patties, my proprietary “unusual gravy,” lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, and strips of black licorice on a bun and sell it as the “Whipper” also prompted me, in 1986, to acquire the toll-free number that would not only lead to a change in the name of the growing business, but would change drastically the way we did our business as well. People laughed at us—openly and raucously—when we announced that we would be taking phone orders for same-day hamburger deliveries at 1-800-BURGERS—for all fourteen of our restaurants at the time, all of which we then renamed “1-800-Burgers.” It was also around then that we began selling children’s sporting equipment, although that was a short-lived and entirely unsuccessful experiment.
Can anyone remember when companies didn’t have websites? And then all of a sudden, it seemed, every advertisement you saw had “www.this” or “www.that” on it. At first, it was an afterthought, but soon enough it became clear that if you weren’t online, you weren’t really doing business. 1-800-Burgers wasn’t online... but we weren’t not online for long! In 2001 we snagged 1800burgers.biz and officially entered the Twenty-First Century. We quickly became the premier Internet destination for shoppers ordering hamburgers and fries (and, for about three years, spiral notebooks) both for self-consumption and as gifts. But cyberspace is only the frontier of innovation. Today, we go beyond that frontier.
If you’ve read my book, Hail to the Beef, you know that as an employer I prefer to hire people who get speeding tickets, not parking tickets. (If you’ve read my younger brother’s rap sheet, you’ll know that he’s taken that a bit too literally over the years.) When it felt like we were just coasting through the 2010s, I challenged the company to identify the next wave for us to surf. Some suggested entering the realm of “conversational commerce.” Others suggested testing an interactive, augmented-reality “build-your-own-burger” concept to further engage consumers. My brother, of all people, had the idea that resonated most with me, though: establishing a physical offline transactional retail point-of-sale where our customers could purchase our products in person and then leave with those products in hand. We eliminate the need for delivery. We remove the middleman. We take and fulfill orders in real-time, right here... at the 1-800-Burgers.biz store!
So now, please join me inside, where you can enjoy your employee discount on everything from birdhouses to birthday cakes to burglar alarms. And if you get hungry while you’re shopping, I’m told there’s even a café on the lower level!
Matthew David Brozik wrote this and many other short humor pieces, which have been published in print and online by The New Yorker, Adult Swim, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Grin & Tonic, The Big Jewel, and no one.