Vera’s Burger Shack
Maybe a few eyebrows were raised when, in 2000, Gerald Tritt left his position as a partner in a successful restaurant in Vancouver to serve burgers to hungry beachgoers at the original Vera’s Burger Shack, a 200-square foot concession stand at Dunadarave Pier in West Vancouver. Many more eyebrows raised when, only a few years later, he and partner Noah Cantor created one of British Columbia’s most popular restaurant chains.
Seizing the opportunity
Vera’s Burger Shack is a local treasure. It originally started in 1977 by Vera and her husband Frank, who served the freshest and tastiest food. Some people might say the beach moved to be near her, not the other way around. “I remember going to the shack and seeing how busy it was, what a following it had, the value proposition of the business,” says Tritt. “When the opportunity came to buy it, I bought it.”
Tritt sold his share of his previous restaurant to his former partner, grabbed a towel and hit the beach. “I started flipping burgers on a beach to see if there were any legs to it, to see if this idea could be conceptualized further.”
Along with partner Noah Cantor, Vera’s Burger Shack has retained its passion for delivering the best food, fresh, with a nod to the 1980s golden epoch of the burger. Tritt and Cantor are committed to not only serving great good, but delivering on the experience of the entire meal from the moment you enter.
Tritt and Cantor deserve credit for not tinkering with a winning formula, and fans of Vera’s keep coming back for the fresh, made-to-order burgers.
“Being honest to what we do,” says Tritt. “I think we still do things the way we did when we first started. It’s what our roots are, what we know. If we are not prepared to eat it, we won’t sell it. That goes through in terms of what the value proposition is for our customers.”
Vera’s customers are responding in kind, voting Vera’s one of the best burgers in Metro Vancouver in 2011, in a poll by the Vancouver Sun. Vera’s was voted Vancouver’s Best Burger eight years running by the Georgia Straight, The Westender and The Courier reader polls, and Vera’s Burger Shack is a preferred restaurant of the Vancouver Canucks and the place to watch the game, enjoy a fresh, tasty burger and drink cold beer.
Because of the popular response, Vera’s has been able to expand to 13 franchises and three corporate stores in under 11 years—Vera’s currently has 16 Lower Mainland locations serving Vancouver, North Vancouver, Richmond, Surrey, and Pitt Meadows, as well as a single location in Ottawa—remarkable growth in the tough food and beverage industry.
In July, Tritt and Cantor announced the signing of an expansion deal which will see franchised locations opening across the U.S. Pacific Northwest. Under the terms of the deal, the first two locations are scheduled to open their doors in the Portland, Ore. neighbourhoods of Nyberg and Pearl District this fall. Over the next three years, the agreement calls for at least five restaurants across Oregon, Idaho, and southwest Washington.
“After years of continued franchise growth in B.C., we are excited about exporting Vera’s award-winning made-fresh-daily burger experience to the U.S. Pacific Northwest,” said Tritt. “In the highly competitive U.S. hamburger market, customers recognize a great burger when they taste one. We are confident our neighbours to the south will agree that ‘You can’t beat Vera’s meat’.
Cantor and Tritt say Vera’s is always welcome to franchisees who share a passion for customer service and Vera’s unique brand. “Find good franchisees, expand into new areas we think we can be successful in, and make sure our next burger is right when it comes off the grill,” Cantor says.
Dedicated to its customers and its vision, Vera’s Burger Shack is one of Canada’s happiest success stories.
“Hamburger is something to have some fun with,” says Tritt. “That is our philosophy. You want to have fun with ground beef. We like to have a little fun, a little spice in our life and that is the fun of the burger. The burger is an open palate, do what you want to it.”