Alejandro Campos, a cook at a Burger Lounge location in downtown flips burgers in preparation for the day.

Alejandro Campos, a cook at a Burger Lounge location in downtown flips burgers in preparation for the day. Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle.

BURGER LOUNGE

CEO: J. Dean Loring

Revenue: $39M in 2017 (approximately 15 percent increase projected in 2018)

No. of employees: 650

Headquarters: Little Italy

Year founded: 2007

Company description: A fast-casual restaurant chain that specializes in grass-fed beef hamburgers.

The acronym is K.I.S.S. Or, “keep it simple, stupid.” But, simple doesn’t necessarily mean easy. Just ask Burger Lounge’s President and CEO J. Dean Loring.

The Burger Lounge concept may appear rather uncomplicated — a 10-item menu that includes grass-fed burgers, fresh-made French fries and onion rings, shakes and salads that are made with locally-sourced ingredients and organic products. But Loring, who founded the company in 2007 with then-partner Mike Gilligan (who still has ownership), says it is this seemingly uncomplicated model that has made the business challenging.

This is so because using whole food ingredients is a lot more complicated than using pre-portioned or frozen products, he says, making it even more difficult when that exact method has to be replicated across a number of restaurants.

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Burger Lounge has 25 locations, 24 of which are in California, including nine San Diego. There are eight Burger Lounges in Los Angeles, four in the Bay Area, two in Orange County, one in Inland Empire and at Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.

‘We Love Simple’

“It is simple and we love simple,” Loring said, “but, making it right every time while utilizing whole food ingredients is our constant challenge.”

Despite its difficulties, this “simple” approach has been the bread and patty of Burger Lounge’s success. The company, which started with one location in La Jolla in 2007 and uses the tagline “the original grass-fed burger,” has since grown to 25 company-owned properties, 24 of which are in California, nine of those being in San Diego; there are eight Burger Lounges in Los Angeles, four in the Bay Area, two in Orange County, one in Inland Empire and one at Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. In 2017, the company’s revenue was $39 million, according to Loring, and is projected to grow by 15 percent in 2018 and by another 15 percent in 2019.

“The concept is to create a hamburger guests feel good about eating — a hamburger that is simple and crave-able but utilizes healthier ingredients like fresh, domestic, grass-fed beef and California-made cheeses made from organic, grass-fed milk,” said Loring about the Burger Lounge vision. He says the company also wants to provide vegetarians with a “proprietary” vegetarian hamburger along with clean salads and fresh side items. It’s just a 10-item menu, he says, but it is generally executed at a high-level.

Loring says Burger Lounge favorites are the “Lounge” burger, which has organic American cheese, onions, shredded lettuce, tomato, pickles and 1000 island dressing; and the “Classic,” which features organic American cheese, Organic ketchup, mustard, pickles and chopped onions. “The hamburger is a food art form,” said Loring. “It juxtaposes flavors, textures and temperatures. It’s visual and it is sensual.”

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