Local Business ‘Busted’ by McDonald’s — The Sad Story of Buster Burger

3 min read • Nov 22, 2011 • Dan Bischoff

Down the road a few blocks is Buster Burger, a favorite lunch spot for many in our office.

The patties are juicy, the buns come fresh from a local bakery, the fries taste homemade, the walls are full of pictures of those who conquered eating contests, the owner friendly, and the environment electric.

Today, a couple of us went there to get our burger fix.

A U-Haul was the only vehicle parked in front of its doors. The owner was carrying equipment from the restaurant and loading it into the back of the truck.

“Sorry, guys,” he said, “we had to shut it down.”

We talked to him for a minute outside of the doors that he was about to lock for good. For a year and a half, he had put his heart and soul into building something that provided a unique, local experience and one of the best burgers in Salt Lake City. He was broken hearted, not as much from a failed business experience, but from having his dreams dashed.

For me, it was almost like losing a dear friend.

On Buster’s Facebook page, it reads

“Well, the end of our dream is here. I can truly say it was a dream and we had an absolute blast living that dream. I once heard that to dream and never follow that dream is to never have lived at all.

“Our experience as restaurant owners has definitely had its up and downs, but as a whole, we have loved every minute of it. We have gotten to be part of a lot of aspects of other people’s lives. We have learned SO much in our adventure and hope to get to apply what we have learned in future dreams.”

Help for Small Business

Many restaurants have a hard time keeping their doors open. It’s one of the toughest industries to get business financing. But regardless, Buster had a great product, provided an awesome experience, and seemed to have a more-than-good chance for success.

Up the road from Buster is a Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Apollo Burger, and an In-N-Out. Each of those franchises are packed every day, even though they don’t provide near the quality of the local burger joint.

Even if just a small percentage of those customers went to Buster instead, Buster would likely still be grilling burgers.

Buster Burger is a microcosm of small business across the country. To help this economy, Main Street America needs to thrive. And to do that, in the end, people need to do more commerce with small businesses at the local level.

With that said, American Express deserves a lot of praise for what it’s doing this weekend. After Black Friday, American Express is declaring Saturday, Nov. 26, Small Business Saturday, to encourage shoppers to buy locally. For more information on that, go here: http://smallbusinesssaturday.com/

3 Lessons Learned From Buster

The owner of Buster Burgers also talked about the 3 disadvantages to owning a restaurant, many of which led to his restaurant going out of business. Here they are as he wrote on his Facebook page:1. Working with the government entities

    … Sales tax, restaurant tax, employment tax, water reclamation fees, grease trap fees, water fees, sewer fees, permits to hang a sign, city workers that show up ten minutes after you put up a sign to tell you that you can’t (where were they hiding anyway), building permit fees that ultimately make sure that if something is done wrong in building your business or home, they guarantee to do absolutely nothing…. I am sure that individually, each one of these serves a purpose, but collectively, not so much.

2. Long hours

    … Restaurants require a lot of time. To say the least, it will be nice to get back to the old days of just 60 hours a week.

3. Advertising

    … there is no short of business that will “help” you grow your business. I found that it is a similar to poker. You have to play the hand you are dealt and luck is a big part of it. Ultimately, if you survive long enough, you learn some tricks specific to that game, but no matter what, you will lose some hands. You just hope that the hands you win outweigh the hands you lose. And to those daily deals businesses…..Don’t use them unless you are a service oriented business. Otherwise, it is quicker to just put a sign on the door that says 75% off everything.

Your Turn

What do you think? What are the main challenges for small businesses? Do we need to do more business with local stores, shops and restaurants?


Dan Bischoff