Thursday, October 29, 2009

Number Nine Burgers: I really wanted to like it

For days, I've been putting off writing this post because it pains me to say bad things about people who try really hard, and the guys at Number Nine Burgers are trying really hard.

As far as I can tell, it's one lone guy, with help from his sons, slinging burgers outside Michigan Stadium on game days. He sets up his stand, complete with griddle, condiment table, and chalkboard menu, and the peeps line up. They do. I did.

He has his social media all lined up. Twitter page, blog with catchy slogan ("flippin' good burgers"), a personal story. He's even savvy enough to post on some of the Michigan football blogs, thanking people for their patronage and telling the story about how he and his son made it into Michigan Stadium for the first time on Saturday but were almost kicked out of the student section (presumably because his tickets were in another section). Two selfless students gave him their tickets, and they were able to stay. That kind of heartfelt sucking up drives business.

What we're looking at is a potential burger goldmine. A captive audience of 100,000 hungry fans. A cool logo. A college town where a good third of all retail space is vacant, and probably deeply discounted, thanks to the economy.

But then there's the burgers. I had my first one on Saturday.

Dude. Mr. Nineburger, reach out to me. We need to talk. First, using frozen, pre-formed patties does not the best burger make. The patty was thin and had fillers. The cheese was not melted. The bun was really average. You can do better.

I love your idea, but the execution just isn't there. You know the picture of the burger on your website, the one where the cheese is dripping down the side of the patty, and the bacon looks like it's on steroids? That's what each and every burger should look like. I am losing saliva over the thought of that burger. I would stand in line over and over again for that burger, but not for the one I had on Saturday.

So get your burgers in order. Add fries to the menu, preferably the skin-on kind. Get a soda fountain featuring Coke products. Find some investors (and not by asking for donations on your website - you need some deep pockets) and a good location. And then I think you got yourself a business.


  1. All I can say is wow! I go to No.9 (the white tent) every home game and I am NEVER dissatisfied! This guys onions alone taste better that many entire burgers in A2 and New York. I have spoken with the owner on many occasions and he is a man that is trying to make it on his own terms...that gets a thumbs-up and a donation from me! Do you own a business or do you just pretend to be a pro? How many thousands have you served? I’m on campus and can’t wait for them to open a stand every day. My advice to you is to stop being a burger snob and use the lessons your mother gave you. If you can’t say something nice...

  2. I waited a week after I ate at Number Nine to write that post because it was not the post I wanted to write. Unfortunately, it wasn't the burger I wanted to eat. Am I pretending to be a pro? Did you read my bio? I've worked in plenty of kitchens. I understand the amount of work that goes into what he does, and I have great respect for a guy who attempts what he's attempting. But my post wasn't knocking his efforts and that was very clear. It was knocking the product. At Number Nine that day, the patties were frozen when he put them on the grill, the cheese was not melted when I was handed the burger, and that was my experience. I wish it had been different.

  3. So the good news for Number Nine is that he's still got a lot up his sleeve. The logistics of the Game Day kiosk don't really allow for the non-frozen patty's. And having talked to the guy and been fortunate enough to hang out on game day, its clear that the other shortcomings cited in this blog entry are obvious to him as well.

    The good news that this post doesn't address is that hands down his kiosk's burgers are the best burgers on game day. Fresh patty, frozen patty, melted cheese, whatever -- comparatively his are the best.

    As for the experience you had, I'm sure that when he evolves into a storefront, that will be as strong as the web presence he's presented.

  4. I'm rooting for Number Nine. I'd love to see him take on Blimpyburgers. He should come visit Evanston and go to Edzo's for a little research and development. Edzo's has it down. As for you, Number Nine - I hope you make it!