Yay to another feature being published!! DNA, Pune, Page 2
What seems like a millennium ago, a phenomenon called Burgers (previously known as Burger King) arrived in Pune. Back then, Pune Camp (M.G. Road) was populated with a cosmopolitan crowd; a mix of foreign students, Christians, Parsis and the elite. The crowd went wild for this place, and for someone who had started this as a small experiment, it ended up being a main business. 25 years since this phenomenon hit this town, Mr. Shapoor Irani, the man behind the burger joint, is still coming to terms with the fact that this place is one of the most famous burger joints in Pune.“I am an MBA graduate, I had nothing to do with this field when I decided to open this joint. I recognized the need in the market for burgers, had an empty space lying around back home, and decided to give it a shot. It’s become such a big hit, it’s not easy!”
Considering it’s esteemed competition, this joint is surprisingly low-key. Orders are taken over a small counter , while the cooks prepare the burgers in the background. While the orders are competently prepared, the options are straightforward- burgers, fries and drinks.All the customers are loyalists, and word-of-mouth publicity has got it this far. If you are in Pune, looking for a fast-food quick-fix, you know where to go.
The Beef Steak Burger has established itself in the competitive market. Mr. Irani went on to tell us how people from Mumbai and Goa come over on weekends to get a taste of the special beef burgers. “On weekends, it’s maddening. There is a long queue of customers waiting to order, and the guys in the kitchen work at the speed of lightning. All the beef burgers are sold out EVERYDAY, there are people who settle in for the chicken burgers because the beef ones are over. I feel bad, but there’s nothing that I can do. I want to continue providing good quantity of quality food, at inexpensive rates.” On quizzing him about the daily sales he smiles and says- I can make 200 burgers, and I can make 10,000. Depends, you can never say. But we are always well prepared.” Does he wish to expand the business? “No not as of now. I have a tough time handling this, how much can one man do? Everything here is freshly prepared, I do not sell frozen patties. The shelf-life automatically decreases, so I can’t be looking out at franchises. I want to give my undivided attention to the 2 stores, I don’t want to compromise on quality, quantity, prices, or my attention” Mr. Irani’s passion for the business is reflected in the way he tells us how a burger is made, describing each step in detail while preparing a burger by himself.
The store has 2 branches, one on East Street and the other one at Koregaon Park. The stores open at 11:30am and close down by 10:30pm, and are always buzzing with customers. A beef steak burger is priced at Rs. 80. The customers know what they want, and they know they can get it here- cheap, filling, and most importantly, consistent. Majority of the customers are students, and that is something that has not changed since the store opened back in 1988-89. “The foreign students would come here for the beef burgers, you’d get the loyal AFMC guys coming in every evening, and every Sunday you’d find the NDA chaps occupying the whole place, all throughout the day. Pune has been very kind.”
A good burger is a beautiful thing, almost like an unimprovable piece of art- a satisfying messy presentation of ketchup, cheese, mayonnaise, beef and of course the custom-made buns. If you’re looking out for messy American burgers that remind you of Jughead while you eat them, you will definitely enjoy this place. And if you are lucky enough to get Mr. Irani to spend some time with you, you’d not want to leave.