Food industry vet on a burger mission

Andy O’Brien searched for right restaurant before choosing The Works

Andy O’Brien hasn’t managed to work his way through the menu at The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro even after two years as president and CEO.

“We have six different kinds of patties, 70 different kinds of toppings for 420 different combinations of burgers,” he says. “Anything you can possibly imagine on a burger we have—from peanut butter to salsa to pears to shrimp.”

Since he took over the company in 2010, The Works went from six restaurants in Ottawa to 16 across Ontario, including a new location on the Danforth near Jones Ave. and another set to open in Bloor West Village near Runnymede Road.

“We play classic rock and roll music and blues and we play it loud,” he says, adding he also plans to expand across the country. “We wanted the look and feel of our buildings to be uniquely different to the neighbourhood that they are in so it should feel like their restaurant. We have menu names that are based on local people and local facts and figures.”

O’Brien, who worked in the food industry in Canada and around the world since he was 14, was working as president of Kelsey’s & Montana’s Restaurants when he decided it was time to run his own company.

“I searched for the best, most creative, most poised for growth concept I could possibly find and I probably looked at like 200 companies,” he says.

In addition to burgers, the full-service licensed restaurant also offers salads, appetizers and 75 varieties of milkshakes.

One of the highlights of his job is learning about those who trek for hours to enjoy one of their burgers.

“There’s this one guy who lives in North Bay who drives to Ottawa once a month just to have a burger,” he says. “The amazing — we call them burger heads — mania that I hear around The Works has been extremely thrilling and very humbling at the same time.”

About this article:

By: Ann Ruppenstein
Posted: Aug 22 2012 12:12 pm
Filed in: Business
Edition: Toronto