“Welcome to BurgerFi!”
That’s the shout customers hear at Emory Point’s latest addition from a restaurant employee every couple of minutes upon entering the fast-food joint of any environmentalist’s dreams.
BurgerFi, which opened its 17th location at Emory Point on Tuesday, just left of Fresh to Order, boasts strictly sustainable and all-natural standards for its burgers, hotdogs, fries, shakes and even sodas.
“Everything is made from scratch,” Rachel Miller, an employee trainer at BurgerFi, said of the menu. “The fries and onions are hand-cut, we make the veggie patties in-house, we squeeze the lemonade in-house. We try to source as locally as possible.”
Inside, Emory students and faculty, CDC workers, hospital workers and even a couple of employees from neighboring restaurants sat at tables and chairs made from recycled Coke cans, devouring vegetarian fed, hormone- and antibiotic-free angus beef.
“You can tell it’s all natural,” Emory Children’s Center worker Misty Das said of her under-ten-dollar meal. She ordered fries and a BurgerFi Cheeseburger, which she described as “delicious,” “juicy” and “well-seasoned.”
Das, along with fellow Emory Children’s Center worker Stephanie Pendley, sampled BurgerFi’s vanilla and chocolate custard before settling under the shade of an umbrella at one of the restaurant’s picnic-style benches facing Clifton Road and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
“It was very good – very creamy,” Pendley said of the custard. “Everything seems fresh.”
Miller offered patrons samples of Purple Cow, a mix of vanilla custard and grape soda made from all-natural cane sugar and no high-fructose corn syrup. Tunes ranging from Florence and the Machine to Guns and Roses muffled a hum of conversation, while a couple of flat screen TVs showed highlights from the day’s Braves game.
But aside from the 1950’s and ’60s burger stand feel, sustainable reputation and fresh, handmade flavor, some customers simply enjoy the opportunity to enjoy a quality vegetarian burger.
“I don’t care much for veggie burgers that taste like beef burgers,” Carolyn Moore, a clinical researcher and vegetarian of 30 years, said as she finished her BurgerFi Veggie Burger–a quinoa patty with white cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato and BurgerFi sauce on a multigrain bun. “This is much better. This is my first time coming here, but I will be back!”
Along with BurgerFi’s vegetarian burgers and sugar-cane sodas, customers may have trouble finding a comparable selection of wines and brews at the common McDonald’s franchise.
Adjacent to the menu screens behind the cashiers’ counter hang several racks holding bottles of Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio, Rex Goliath Merlot and Hogue Chardonnay. An array of craft beer tap handles sits between the cash registers and a cluster of Mason jars filled with sundae toppings.
According to Miller, the restaurant may introduce happy hour deals in the near future.
“A lot of other stores do ‘buy one, get one free’ draft, or ‘buy two glasses, get the bottle’ deals,” she said. “With this franchise, it’s really up to the managers, but I could see us starting to do that pretty soon.”
Twenty-eight new BurgerFi locations, including one in Kennesaw, Ga. and another in Alpharetta, Ga., are set to open in the U.S. in the next six months, while rights have been sold to more than 200 new owners nationwide.
Though dwarfed by McDonald’s, which, according to the company’s annual report, added 1,439 new restaurants last year, carbon footprint-conscious BurgerFi certainly raises American fast food standards, customers agree.
“This is way better than regular fast food,” CDC worker Loren Rodgers said after a final bite of his BurgerFi Burger. “It’s substantive. It’s fresh.”
– By Lydia O’Neal