Photos by Kate and Michael Auda
When you study English Lit in college, the restaurant business is an obvious career segue," says the company's founder, J. Dean Loring, who opened Stars Hamburgers in Northern California in 1988. "I have a pathological desire to please people, and that's a natural prerequisite for the hospitality industry."
A hamburger empire that grew out of a space measuring
only 750 square-feet, Burger Lounge now
has 21 locations and 750 employees...
Loring opened the first Burger Lounge in downtown La Jolla in 2007.
"It was a little French place owned by some Egyptian guys," he says. "We bought their lease for $100,000, and built out the restaurant. It does about $1.9 million per year, pretty successful for the location."
Today, the popular chain, which is operated from a cool office in Little Italy , has unfussy, minimalistic San Diego locations in Carlsbad, Coronado, Del Mar, Del Sur (coming soon), Gaslamp, Hillcrest, Kensington, La Jolla and Little Italy.
Loring says two principles drive the brand.
"One is to do a common thing uncommonly well," he says. "[The second is] to offer simplicity to people living complicated lives." Supported by house-baked buns and freshly cut fries and onion rings, grass-fed beef takes center- stage on the Burger Lounge menu. Other burger innovations include patties made with free-range turkey and "lots of fresh basil," and
an organic quinoa and vegetables version - available with organic cheese, of course.
Loring's success, it seems, stems from his having an eye and taste for simplicity. Plus, the guy never gives up.
"I'm an S.O.B. - a son of a butcher," he says. "And, on my maternal side, I'm a G.S.O.B., a grandson of a butcher."
Given the rate by which his family of restaurants has been expanding, it's a safe bet Loring already has another bun in the oven.