Bigger isn’t always better

Anybody who doesn’t think that the best hamburger place in the world is in his home town is a sissy.
~Calvin Trillin

I spent an evening out of town last week. A friend of mine suggested I have dinner at a very small burger joint nearby. I love small burger joints. Even when they’re bad, they’re better than McDonald’s, and the food is hardly ever bad. This one wasn’t amazing, but the tea was good and the burger was real.

I got to looking around while I ate. The place was tiny…not much bigger than an apartment, and was pretty dingy. A sign and some old photos boasted that the place had been around since the 50’s.

This contradicts what you’ll read in a business magazine. The prevailing idea of business is to get big fast, make lots of money, and grow, grow, grow.

I see this in the place I work. It went corporate recently (that’s for another post, though), and since then the trend has been bigger, better, and more.

A small burger joint is focused. They serve burgers, fries, usually shakes and/or malts, and there’s sometimes a chicken sandwich on the menu. They don’t strike out too much. But you go to a burger joint for burgers, not five-course meals. They know what you want, and they know where their priorities are. They don’t bother too much with novelty or trying to attract business with a bigger selection.

Hell, for the most part they don’t really seem to try to attract business at all. They rely on word-of-mouth. In my parent’s town, ask anyone where to get a burger and they’ll point you at the burger joint. Press them and they’ll say “Oh, yeah, the Dairy Queen and Sonic do burgers, too.” But if you want a fucking burger, you go to the burger joint at the top of the hill.

They’re more susceptible to changes in the local economy, but they’re overall a lot less stressed. They don’t have to worry about globalization or their precious brand or making sure the food at all the different franchises tastes the same. No stocks to fall or shareholders to please. They do what they do and their rising and falling goes mostly unnoticed.

So here’s to you, small locally-owned-and-operated burger joints of awesome. While everyone else is freaking out about oil spills and the stock market, you guys keep on making good burgers. And I love you for it.

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