The newly opened fast-casual restaurant in Wan Chai is designed to offer quality, affordable hamburgers to all.
It began, fittingly, with a boy and a burger.
“When I was pregnant with my first son, I craved burgers and pickles — I never even liked pickles — and I would make my husband take me all across Hong Kong on a hunt for the best burger place,” says Mel Zhou.
“Not dropping any names, but I remember coming across this one shop, and there was a little boy. He looked at his dad and said he really wanted to eat there, and the dad was going to say ‘okay’ until he looked at the menu; he looked at the price and said, ‘No, this is for rich people’. That honestly shattered me. It broke my heart.”
It was also the moment that inspired Zhou to open Boy n Burger, which opened this week in Wan Chai. With “ingredient and quality-driven” burgers — at prices starting as low as HK$28 — she hopes that no future boy (or girl) would ever have to see their burger dreams slip away again.
“Why should affordability and quality not coexist and be available for everyone?” says Zhou. “Why should we segregate it to that kind of price level where people can’t afford it? So that was the driver.”
Born in China but raised in Australia, all things crispy, greasy and savoury have always held a special place in Zhou’s heart.
“We have this culture of eating hot dogs, meat pies, fish and chips — and burgers, of course,” says Zhou. “After school, we’d grab hamburgers, drink our Coke, and go sit by the beach. And on weekends, we’d have barbecues, sausage sizzles, frying patties and making our own buns. It was beautiful.”
After taking her first cooking class in school, she learned the art of omelettes and pancakes, perfecting her craft on her parents back home.
“I remember coming home so excited,” she beams. “I cooked every day for them, and it made them happy, so there was the correlation: happiness, food. Food makes people happy.”
While working as a waitress at her uncle’s restaurant, Sea Breeze, in the Sydney neighbourhood of Roselle, Zhou learned another important lesson: Service.
“I remember just hanging out at the restaurant and watching the whole process of how the business is run, how the deliveries came, how to store frozen meat and whatnot, but service was so important that I realized the only way to make a restaurant work was good service,” she says. “It really stuck in my head all these years.”
So what’s a perfect burger to Mel Zhou? It’s all about balance.
“Nothing too oily, nothing too dry. Nothing too rich, not too salty,” she says. “The right balance has to be the right balance, and that’s why we spent hours and hours experimenting and trying to come up with this perfect burger for our tastebuds.”
The result, at first glance, may look a bit familiar to hamburger lovers everywhere. Even the signature signature Bobby Burger (HK$55) features two all-beef patties, special sauce… you get the idea. But the increase in quality is noticeable from the first bite to the last, a credit to the fresh, locally sourced veggies and the 20-day salt moss-aged grass and wild cereal grain-fed beef, always made to order.
“We order no pre-made patties,” says Zhou. “We always make it on the spot, so you can really taste the difference and the quality.”
The menu serves a variety of items beyond the patty, as well. Chicken tenders, hot dogs, cheese toasties and more all make an appearance across the restaurant’s breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, with green apple coleslaw (HK$15) and a BBQ corn cup salad (HK$20) offering a refreshing balance to all that deep-fried goodness.
That sustainability element is a crucial part to the Boy n Burger mission; the store sources all of its vegetables and fruit through local suppliers, and is working to eliminate waste along its supply chain as well. Zhou even extends the sustainability concept to her own staff.
“We really want our staff to be happy and motivated; with a lot of restaurants, they work 12, 16, 17-hour days, and they get no benefits, no overtime. We’re doing no six-days a week, it’s five days a week, even for chefs. No split shifts, we’re doing paid overtime. We’re trying to build our own internal ecosystem, a business model for staffing, to be better to everyone,” says Zhou.
For non-Hong Kong Island residents fearing a trip all the way to Wan Chai to get their burger fix, fear not: Zhou plans to expand the brand, with more locations to come. After all, these burgers are for everyone.
“For us at Boy n Burger, community is at the heart of our brand. We genuinely want everyone to be able to try our burgers and afford them, and we want to cater for the masses. That’s our core mission: Quality. Service. Affordability. Burgers for everyone.”
Boy n Burger, G/F, Shop 3, 208 Johnston Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 3686 0928