Amongst many other things, 2020 was the year of deliveries. Restaurants adapted their offerings, breweries were bringing kegs direct to customers and lots of new delivery-only food businesses were set up.
While many operators were working out how to pivot their business or launching new concepts in order to reach at-home diners, there was one business in Greater Manchester that had been operating in this way for years.
Burgerism launched in April 2018, a delivery-only burger concept based in a warehouse in Salford, aiming to offer customers “the best off-premises burger in your neighbourhood”. Burgerism is run by three guys from Ireland who came to Manchester to set up the business; Mark and John, two old school-friends, and John’s brother Pete, who joined the team a year later.
Although dark kitchens are pretty commonplace these days, when Burgerism set up, this delivery-only concept was largely unheard of.
Co-founder of Burgerism, Mark, said:
“We were very early on the dark kitchen trend, possibly the first dark kitchen in Manchester. When we started it, a lot of people didn’t really understand, it just didn’t make sense to a lot of people. So, we were up against a lot of doubters, maybe.
“However, we got really good support from Uber Eats and we worked very closely with them throughout the early months and even today. And they saw, obviously, the potential of the dark kitchen and how big delivery was going to become.”
“So for us, we never really doubted ourselves but we had to really talk our story up to people when we were hiring or talking to suppliers. In 2018 in Manchester, delivery was a much smaller thing, you might do 30, 40 orders a night as a big brand. Now big brands are doing a lot more than that.”
Burgerism has developed a pretty serious cult following over the past couple of years. Since they launched, they haven’t shouted about what they do or done lots of marketing. Instead, they have taken their time, developing the brand, perfecting the menu and making sure everything is bang on.
In early 2020, things were already starting to ramp up for the brand, but when lockdown was introduced, Burgerism was perfectly placed to start feeding the increased appetite for quality at-home delivery options.
Since the start of the first lockdown, the operation has more than doubled in size in terms of staff and the number of orders being taken. So much so, that Burgerism has been delivering more than 1000 burgers a day on a weekend during lockdown.
When they started out, they wanted to raise the quality of delivery food in Manchester. At that point, they said, there wasn’t a great number of good options for diners. Despite the volumes, Mark says the focus for them has always been quality, using local ingredients where possible.
From the beginning, they wanted to keep the menu simple, with a selection of well-considered burger options including ‘smashed patty’ beef burgers, Nashville fried chicken and a veggie burger.
Everything – burgers, fries, sauces, wings – is made fresh in the Salford warehouse, which is operated 24 hours a day by a rotating team of 70 members of staff, with around 35-40 shifts per day. It’s a very impressive operation.
Unlike many burger restaurants in Manchester, where you can get burgers topped with mac and cheese and all sorts, the toppings for these burgers are relatively simple with American style cheese, lettuce, tomato, turkey bacon and pickles. The buttermilk chicken burger is topped with fresh slaw and pickles.
A lot of thought has been put into each element of the menu. The smashed patties mean that the burger is pressed down while cooking to get as much contact between the burger and the grill for maximum flavour and a delicious crispy edges. The fries are made with hand-chipped potatoes and they have spent time developing their packaging so that they arrive as fresh and crispy as possible. I’ve had many a soggy chip delivered to me, so I imagine this is a pretty challenging thing to achieve.
Burgerism’s Salford warehouse offers orders for delivery and collection and they have also opened a second site near Piccadilly which fulfils delivery orders only.
Mark tells us that there’s a real buzz in the converted kitchen warehouse, and that the unique working environment has created . The team has been steadily growing over the past three years and they are regularly looking to hire more people, but they have also managed to retain many of their staff, some of whom have worked at Burgerism since the early days.
There are other benefits to working from a warehouse too. They have a much larger space to work from which means that they can really focus on the food and they don’t need to compromise on the quality of their ingredients.
In the wake of a year of constant change and a rapid evolution of the way we understand food, dining and takeaways, as things start to open back up, it will be interesting to see how the landscape of hospitality might change once again and how this will impact the current delivery concepts and also the high street.
“My view absolutely is that restaurants are core to hospitality and always will be and that experience of eating out is something that people appreciate even more now that they can’t. So I’m really looking forward to restaurants being back open. For me, the high street isn’t dead, it’s just going to evolve. The best brands will always do well, whether it’s for delivery or on the high street.
“Dark kitchens and delivery kitchens can be great opportunities for people, whether it’s trying out new cities or if you’re a first-time food entrepreneur trying something a little less risky. Increasingly, I’m seeing a lot of restaurant brands looking at dark kitchens, seeing them a just another string to their bow and I think the two will definitely co-exist.”
The Burgerism team are keen to keep growing, both within their current sites and potentially more sites.
Although deliveries have been their bread and butter since the beginning, Burgerism isn’t ruling out the possibility of opening a high street store or a drive-thru operation and, as Mark tells us, they have already had landlords reaching out to them about that.
Burgerism is available to order for delivery via Uber Eats and Deliveroo and pre-orders can also be collected from their Salford store. For more information and to view the full menu, visit: burgerism.co.uk.