A drive across the North American landscape inevitably leads to one of countless exit ramps that spiral onto neon-lit roads lined with fast food restaurants of every description.
Traveling down these unending ribbons of culinary commerce, it’s hard to believe that some entrepreneurs believe the cheeseburger has not yet been perfected. Today, burgers come in every conceivable combination, spread across a wide range of price points.
Yet every year a new burger shop opens, a new dream of franchising is born, even as some brands lose their sizzle and quietly fade away. Amid the kaleidoscope of choices, there are still those who pursue the quest to build a better burger.
Jason Hill is one such entrepreneur. Growing up in the Six Nations territory in Ontario, Jason dreamed of creating his own unique burger restaurant. Once he was successful in other industries, from retail to construction, he saw the opportunity and seized it.
The result was Burger Barn, and soon after its founding in 2011 people from across the province began to notice. When the restaurant was featured on The Food Channel’s “You Gotta Eat Here” program, hungry tourists began arriving in droves, Burger Barn menus tucked in their fanny packs.
First, we’ve got to ask you: What’s an Innit & Out Burger?
Jason Hill: [Laughs.] Well, the one thing you can learn from that is that we love to have fun at Burger Barn. We come up with these kinda whimsical specials from time to time, and the customers and our chefs really enjoy it. “Innit & Out Burger” is our nod to the iconic California burger franchise. It comes with two ground beef patties topped with American cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato and a special sauce.
We’re also known for our fusion of native recipes and Southern-style comfort food. The burgers get all the glory, but patrons also gush about the Indian tacos, chicken wings, ribs, homemade pies and all-day-breakfasts.
So is that your secret sauce, having fun at what you do?
Jason Hill: Yes, that’s part of it, but I would also add something that many business people wouldn’t expect: tradition, values and heritage. How we define ourselves and how we interact with our customers is very important to us.
We have just 12,000 residents throughout this large territory, living in small towns like Beavers Corner, Longboat Corners, Medina Corners, Millers Corner, St. Johns, Smith Corners, Smoothtown, Sour Spring and Stoneridge. So we know each other, depend on each other, and prize community. In fact one of the central events in our history is The Great Law, handed down many generations ago, which emphasizes care, living life with a good mind and good intentions, abiding by the laws of nature, and individual freedom through the wellbeing of the whole.
What a rich tapestry, and an incredible backstory. How do you go about translating those values into the world of business?
Jason Hill: We remind ourselves every day about the importance of staying true to the values of our great heritage, the people and what for me has always been my hometown. It’s one reason we wrote a promise to our customers that we have posted prominently in the restaurant. Let me read it to you, it’s really so important:
- Quality: Our chef carefully selects only the freshest market ingredients to create our featured offerings and seasonal specialties.
- Value: Fair prices and generous portions ensure you won’t leave hungry. Weekly specials add to the savings, and patrons never pay a sales tax in Six Nations of the Grand River.
- Variety: We’re famous for our burgers, but there are many other options to satisfy every craving. There’s something on our menu for every taste.
- Service: Burger Barn features Six Nations hospitality, with the warmth, attentiveness and friendliness that will make every visit a memorable one.
- Community: Burger Barn is a business of, by and for the people of Six Nations. We are deeply rooted in our community. We honor its heritage, live its values, and welcome all to dine with us.
Thank you Jason, for your time and for some really thoughtful insights.
Jason Hill: You’re welcome, and let’s not forget dessert!