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Mar10WedThere's no beef with how The Burger's Priest restaurant gives back. March 10, 2021 by Ken Ramstead
Walk into any Burger's Priest location and you’ll realize you’re not in some generic fast-food joint. There are biblical quotes on the walls, and the hamburgers have names such as High Priest, Fiery Furnace, Noah’s Ark, Tower of Babel and Judgement Day.
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- Faith & Friends
But the quotes and names are not just for decoration or to impress.
“Our entire business is built around Acts 20:35: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ That Scripture captures it all,” says Alex Rechichi, CEO of Extreme Foods, of which The Burger’s Priest is a chain. “It’s not just about faith; it’s about doing what’s right, and the restaurant’s philosophy is built on that.”
Birth of a Burger
The first Burger’s Priest opened its doors in Toronto’s Beaches area in June 2010.
It was founded by Shant Mardirosian, a seminary student who had attended Tyndale University in Toronto.
Born and raised in California with a background in the food industry, he put his plans for the priesthood on hold and decided to try his hand at launching an eatery based on the classic old-fashioned burger he knew and loved as a child.
The Burger’s Priest soon developed a devoted following and attracted the attention of Alex, who owns almost 300 restaurants in Canada and the United States.
“I remember friends telling me, ‘You have to go check out this Burger’s Priest place.’ And I’d always reply, ‘I have an issue with burgers. They’re not really something I’m crazy about.’ ”
Alex was finally persuaded to try it out.
“I took a bite into a burger, looked at my partner and said, ‘Oh, my goodness. This is unbelievable.’ ”
Alex met Shant, then opening up his third Burger’s Priest, and the two joined forces. When Shant exited the business, Alex became sole owner, and the nine locations have grown to 25, in Toronto, Ottawa and Edmonton, and there are plans to start spreading across the country in the next couple of years.
A person of faith himself, whose children attend Christian college, Alex’s plan “was to always continue the culture, soul and mindset that the brand was founded upon” under his watch.
“I certainly do not have Shant’s depth of biblical knowledge, but we had a lot of conversations on faith and religion over the years,” Alex says. “One of the things I learned from Shant is how the organization has always given back. He was very in touch with that, and in tune with giving back to different causes he believed in. That’s exactly what we’ve continued to do with The Burger’s Priest.”
This was never truer than the steps The Burger’s Priest took during COVID-19.
Paying It Forward
The Burger’s Priest was not immune from the damage wrought by the pandemic’s restrictions on the restaurant industry.
“Our primary focus last year was to get our restaurants reopened,” says Alex. “It’s important for people to put food on their tables and to work.”
To that end, the restaurant started the Have Faith campaign. The First Ten Burger was created to celebrate a decade in operation. Billed as the “ultimate COVID comfort food,” this classic maple-dipped bacon cheeseburger was served between two full soft-baked doughnuts, grilled with butter and topped with a dusting of icing sugar. Proceeds from that and other burger sales and branded merchandise went toward The Full Plate, a Toronto non-profit charity that supports displaced hospitality and restaurant workers.
“We’ve been able to adapt,” says Alex, “but there are a lot of restaurants and small businesses that are finding it challenging.”
The Burger’s Priest also held a “giveaway giveaway” with a $10,000 prize. The winner submitted a video or essay nominating a deserving person, small business or charity that they would give the money to. And the person who submitted the winning entry would get free hamburgers for a year!
“We created this contest as a way to pay it forward,” says Alex. “It’s about giving back. What better way to celebrate than to give?”
The Way We Were
A similar initiative was adopted within the chain itself, where the staff have been asked to identify co-workers who have impacted their lives in a positive way.
“It’s unbelievable,” smiles Alex. “I’ve been reading the submissions and I have been wowed by what their co-workers are saying about the nominees.
“I’m proud of the connections we have with our guests, but it’s those connections we make with our front-line staff and fellow employees that’s truly wonderful. It’s a reflection on everyone, including my family, my colleagues and the rest of the team.”
Alex has been in the restaurant business since he was 21.
“It’s in my veins. I’m passionate about it, but the best part of it is truly the people.
“Like everybody else, I want everyone to stay safe, that’s the number one priority,” concludes Alex, “but I can’t wait for the day when we can interact with people the way we used to.”
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