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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-09-06



SAVOR Epic Burger CEO talks nutrition, money, upcoming specials
by Andrew Davis

This article shared 1454 times since Wed Aug 9, 2023
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Epic Burger's David Grossman is probably one of the most affable and down-to-earth CEOs you're likely to meet. Grossman will talk about a variety of subjects (including some tumultuous days at his alma mater, the University of Kansas) but he's also (justifiably) mostly about business, as he heads a chain known for delicious items and innovative campaigns.

Grossman—a Chicagoland native who acquired Epic Burger in 2020 after selling Freshii in 2018, and who is also president of Fresh Food Management—recently talked with Windy City Times about various aspects of Epic Burger (which has the tagline "We make a more mindful burger"), including nutrition, expansion and more.

Note: This conversation was edited for clarity and length.

Windy City Times: You certainly have an extensive background in food.

David Grossman: I came to Chicago [from the University of Kansas] in '89. I opened, like, 150 Subways all over the city, and opened every Subway [restaurant] on the South Side. I also have been involved with DMK Burger Bar and then acquired Freshii before Epic Burger.

WCT: So I'm always interested in names. Do you know why this is called "Epic Burger" and not "Awesome Burger" or something like that?

DG: I actually do not know that. You actually would need to contact [founder] David Friedman. I bought Epic Burger three years ago; I did not create it. [Note: SAVOR has reached out to Friedman.] Over time, David wanted out, and the new ownership group and some other managing partners weren't getting along; they asked me to [step] in.

I had sold Freshii in 2018, made some money—and I was actually trying to buy a business. I was trying to buy another chain, but that fell apart. But I came here in 2020. I love the name, and I think it can be used anywhere in the world. I'm actually trying to buy a competitor right now—a six-unit chain.

Our tagline is "a more mindful burger." Our meats [beef and chicken] are halal-certified. Our bacon is nitrate-free. Our eggs are cage-free and pasteurized. Our vegetables are organic, and so is our ice cream. We have premium cheese from Wisconsin, and we try to source locally. Even our packaging is biodegradable.

Everything we do is mindful. We hire, train and promote from within. I love that name and I want to spread it.

WCT: A lot of people contend that fast food isn't healthful. But Epic has quite a few items that are more nutritious.

DG: Yes. One thing that comes to mind is our grilled chicken sandwich. [The chicken] is marinated for at least 24 hours in this dressing; it's then grilled and comes with tomato, avocado and lettuce. It's a really healthy option that's my go-to.

The other is the Beyond Burger—and we were one of the first in the area, and America, to offer a Beyond Burger, in 2011.We were an early adapter and it's been one of best sellers. We probably get two or three complaints a week from customers who think they've gotten beef burgers. And my wife, who's a vegetarian, doesn't like anything that resembles beef so she stays away from this burger.

The turkey burger is another great option. We also launched a fish sandwich—although it's fried, so it's not the healthiest. We launched it last year for Lent, and it's been very popular both years.

WCT: What's something you can tell about limited or upcoming dishes?

DG: In September, we plan on launching this Italian beef burger, which is a burger with a quarter-pound of Italian beef, giardiniera and provolone cheese. It is so good. We think we're going to keep the hot dog because it's selling so well; you have a brioche bun, tomatoes, pickles and onions. It's also halal, and it's grilled instead of boiled.

WCT: I know you've had specials like the Epic AF (with "AF" standing for "about food") Challenge [in which people had 20 minutes and eight seconds—reflecting Epic's founding year of 2008—to consume a large amount of food] as well as 10-cent burger specials. You've also had spontaneous challenges, like the one that took place this year after Northwestern University's men's basketball team beat Purdue, which was number one in that nation at the time.

DG: Yes. [Recently,] it was National French Fry Day and we had just found out about it. So we gave away free fries with any cookie. We gave away over a thousand [bags of] fries and our sales were considerably higher for the day.

I wish we had more followers; I don't know how to get them. Everything I do is pretty natural, pretty organic. But the next thing we have going after the Sep. 1 launch of the Italian beef burger will be on Sept. 15—which will be our 15-year anniversary. All day on that day, we will offer $5 for a burger and fries.

People can download the app and sign up for email blasts in order to get this information.

WCT: There are five Chicagoland locations—but there were seven at one time, correct?

DG: There were eight when I bought it. There was one in Streeterville that had a stupid high rent, on Ontario; there was one on Adams, which I closed last year; and there was one in River North, by Clark and Hubbard. That one had really high rent, too; we were paying, like, $8,000/month and they wanted $16,000/month. I tried to open an Epic in Roscoe Village but, again, the landlord wanted way too much money. I'm not in business to pay rent.

WCT: A lot of businesses were decimated during the COVID pandemic. How did you make it through?

DG: That's a good question. Two years ago, the cost of everything went up—everything. And then there was the supply-chain problem; things took longer to arrive. I'm sure you saw that on the news. So we had to raise our prices last May, and we think the prices will be the same for a little while. The price of chicken is high even though the price of chicken tenders (which we don't have on our menu) dropped. But our in-store prices are considerably lower than the prices on GrubHub, DoorDash or Uber Eats.

WCT: If you could go back—knowing what you know now—and do anything differently, what would that be?

DG: Wow. You look back sometimes at a piece of real estate and you see that you missed [an opportunity]. You say, "I wish I would've done that deal."

Opening a restaurant can cost $800,000. That's real money; I don't have that much money. I want to make sure it works. Obviously, no one ever went broke saying "no." So do I have some regrets, besides joining that fraternity in Kansas? Yes.

I think 95% of restaurants fail before they ever open. People choose the wrong location, hire the wrong manager, design the store poorly. The location is really important—not just the actual site itself, but the lease negotiation as well.

WCT: Here's a lighter question for you. Complete this: Epic Burger will never _______________ and will always _________________.

DG: Epic Burger will never cut corners. We will never sacrifice quality. That's really important to us. And we'll never shrink our portions. However, if you want me to lower my prices, I'll get an inferior bun, inferior cheese, inferior beef patties.

We'll always deliver food with a smile. My goal is to have every guest walk out of here and say, "Wow."

Epic Burger's website is, and Epic Burger is on Instagram @theepicburger.

This article shared 1454 times since Wed Aug 9, 2023
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