Opening a hamburger restaurant

This post was originally posted on my 100 Peaks hiking blog on July 18, 2014, when we closed escrow on our property on Grand Avenue.


Our address number

As I mentioned in my blog post from May, there are some changes coming ahead. We will make it back to San Diego at the end of this month, easing back into our old home there.

Today, we purchased a commercial property in Historic Downtown Escondido. It used to be an adult book store and we will be turning it into a restaurant. Yes, you heard that right, a restaurant.

But Derek, you might ask, Why a restaurant? I haven't seen any cooking pictures in your blog posts or anywhere else in your social media feeds. Are you a chef?

No, I am not a chef, nor have I had any formal restaurant experience. I consider myself a businessman, an expert in user experience, and will be part of a team of great people that includes people with restaurant experience. I will be primarily running the restaurant 'machine' and working eagerly to get people in there and enjoying the food. I will be major part of the creative portion of the concept and design.

What type of restaurant will it be?

While the concept is still evolving, and we don't have a name yet [Update: At the time of the writing of this post we didn't have a name yet, of course now we know that it is Burger Bench], our current concept prototype involves three Bs: Breakfast, Burgers, and Beer. [Update: We may have breakfast at later point, but we are opening with Lunch and Dinner]

It will be a fast casual restaurant (FCR), with as fresh and local ingredients as we can make it without charging too much. I want it to be a great place to hang out, with good music, great food, and smiling service. An overall good value for couples, families, and whoever is hungry for some quality food.

Why Escondido?

Downtown Escondido is a charming street with historic buildings. Crusin' Grand, a popular event where thousands come from across the county to see and have their classic cars seen, is held on Fridays from April thru September. There are also festivals and parades that run through the town. The building we're purchasing, under the retail facade, has old brick and wood accents that we think will be a great dining environment. We'll be able to have some outside seating (dog-friendly) and provide a great eating space.

As of now, the City of Escondido and its Fire Department have been a great source of information and truly supportive of turning this old adult book store into something the community can get behind. They are familiar with the property and, without them, I wouldn't have been able to perform as much due diligence on the property as I did. They truly care about the character of Downtown Escondido and it shows.

Crowds for Cruisin' Grand

When will it open?

Well, we just closed on the property today, and we still have a lot of work to do, so stay tuned for an updated timeline and a link to a new blog that will be focused on the restaurant, since I don't want to pummel my hiking community with posts about starting and running a restaurant.

[Update: We are aiming for Fall 2015, not in time for the next season of Crusin' Grand.]

But, seriously, why a restaurant?

This has been an idea that we've been kicking around for a while. I've gotten a bit tired of the tech industry, with its fair share of stakeholders. I love being in charge of the user experience and would like to continue to do so, but in a different way, for a different kind of product. The websites and interfaces that I've been involved with over the years have been greatly improved by my work and I am proud of that. With my own restaurant, I get to be passionate about my customers and provide them with the best experience I can offer. I understand customer expectations, and therefore can apply what I know and give customers a great eating experience out the gate.

What else?

What I truly would like, once the restaurant is complete, is for all of you in the San Diego area to consider coming by after a hot and dusty day in the San Diego backcountry and have some tasty burgers, some local craft beer, and milkshakes. And tell me all about your hikes.

[Update: Feel free to reach out with any questions or comments. Thanks for reading!]