Ones to Watch | By Sabrina Davis
They’ve entered the largest quick-service restaurant segment and settled across the street from the segment’s leading player, yet the owners of Boston’s 8-month-old UBurger say they have little competition.
Spiro Kouvlis and Nick Kesaris say their goal is to offer a fresh, better-tasting alternative to the standard fast-food burger at a reasonable price. Being across the street from a McDonald’s gives customers a chance to make that comparison.
The plan is working. Readers of the Boston Phoenix recently voted UBurger “Best Burger.”
Kouvlis and Kesaris met their initial weekly sales goal of $20,000 in November 2006 , after opening in October. “I’m a numbers guy,” Kesaris says. “With Boston rents and projected salary, that’s where I thought we needed to be to make a good profit. Now we’re hitting $30,000.”
At ages 30 and 31, you might expect Kouvlis and Kesaris to be just getting started in the restaurant business. But the high school buddies have been operating eateries together since their early 20s. They purchased The Clam Box in nearby Quincy from Kesaris’s father and owned it for five years. They also operated The Tap Bar and Grill in downtown Boston for a year and a half. Both concepts were just a means to this end, Kesaris explains.
“The Clam Box was seasonal, and we’d take four months off each year and travel. That first year, we went to [Kouvlis’s] brother’s bachelor party out in Vegas and saw In-N-Out Burger,” Kesaris says. “Since then, this has been on the back burner, we just had to find the right location and timing.”
“In-N-Out amazed us with how simple the menu was, yet how busy they were and how good the food was,” Kouvlis says.
The pair also visited Portillo’s in Chicago and Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries in Washington, D.C. for inspiration. “There was nothing like it in Boston; we’re the first fresh fast food here. Everybody loves a really good burger, and I’ve never been able to find one around here. We’re doing a pretty good job.”