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BurgerFi (Fie)

Burgerfi burgerI just paid my last visit to BurgerFi, the latest player to enter Central Florida’s resurgent burger market. Inasmuch as it was also my first visit to Park Avenue operation of the Delray-based chain, you can probably tell how things went.

BurgerFi joins other mid-level burger joints such as Five Guys and Boardwalk Fresh Burgers & Fries, which I reviewed recently. I call them mid-level because they rise above the likes of McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s, but they aren’t in the upscale category, such as you’d find at Fleming’s or Morton’s.

BurgerFi is certainly closer to the fast-fooders in its operation. It’s actually a fast-casual restaurant, one where you order at a counter and then take a seat to have your food delivered when ready. That part involves an interesting bit of technology. The checkout person hands the customer a device similar to a coaster-style pager like you might get at a full service restaurant to notify you when your table is ready. But rather than vibrating and lighting up to signify you should return to the host stand, the BurgerFi device lets the food runner know which table you’re sitting at so he or she can deliver your food.

The secret, apparently, is embedded in the mat in the center of each table. Guests are instructed to place the device on the mat, which somehow relays the location to the kitchen. Pretty cool.

But it was while I was waiting for the delivery of my burger, the “classic” cheeseburger, that the rest of the visit was clouded and, frankly, ruined.

I had taken one of the tables on the patio that has been fashioned in front of what was once the Orvis retails store at the lower end of Park Avenue. Both the patio and the rustic, picnic-like interior of the restaurant are decidedly downscale, but perfectly serviceable. 

My table was close to a trash can -- they’re necessary, and the proximity didn’t bother me. What did bother me was that just before my food was delivered a young man who had apparently been assigned to service the trash cans approached carrying two large, already-loaded trash bags. Instead of placing then quietly on the ground, he held them high in the air and then let them drop, one then the other, so that they plopped and made a loud, trashy noise. It was the act of a petulant child who did not like chore he’d been assigned. He removed the trash bag from the patio can and then did the same high-level drop with that one.

It was at that moment that the runner arrived with my food. Seeing the look of awe on my face and noticing that I was simply shaking Burgerfi interiormy head in disbelief, she asked if something was wrong. After I explained, she said she would mention something to him. Noting that she had little authority beyond bringing food to the tables, I suggested that a manager should be told. I added that I was not at all happy at that point.

Now, good servers learn to read the clues that a guest gives. They might notice a change in body language, or the sudden shift in attitude that might signal something is wrong. Then those good servers would act to rectify the situation.

However, when a guest says the words “I’m not happy” and “manager” in the same sentence, there is no need for lengthy analysis. 

So while we wait for the manager to come over, let’s try the burger and fries.

From an appearance standpoint, the most notable thing about the burger is the bun, onto which has been stamped -- no, branded -- the name of the restaurant. I’m sure it’s meant to impress, but all I could think of was that to accomplish this little gimmick requires burning the bun. The burgers are a bit smallish, but the cheeseburger, which includes double angus patties, was sufficiently substantive meatwise. (The kitchen will not entertain requests to cook a burger to order -- it’s medium-well or nothing.) The burger had a slice of melted cheese and was topped with a leaf of iceberg lettuce that had more white than green surface color, and a nice slice of tomato. The only thing missing was flavor. There was none. There was no sensation of greasy meat juices, and no hint of any seasonings in the patties, not even salt. It wasn’t until I put some ketchup and mayonnaise on it -- both drawn into thimble-sized cups from industrial-sized pumps -- that there was any flavor at all. 

And it was the same with the fries, an ample portion of thick-sliced, unpeeled potatoes. Good looking fries; zero taste.

It probably won’t surprise you that a manager never came over. Either the young woman didn’t tell a manager there was an unhappy customer or the manager didn’t care. I decided it was the former, and made another request to speak to someone in charge.

When I related what had happened, he apologized for the unpleasant experience. Then he asked me what I wanted. I suppose it’s a reality that many customers complain only with the goal of getting a free dessert, or having their entire meal reimbursed. Some of us have only the goal of seeing improved service and a more enjoyable dining experience for all. I told him I wanted nothing.

There was nothing about the experience that would make me want to go back. And certainly the food, which was overpriced at just under $10 for a burger and fries, doesn’t warrant putting up with being served by an army of untrained children. 

BurgerFi is at 538 Park Ave. S., Winter Park. It's open for lunch and dinner daily. Here is a link to the BurgerFi website. The phone number is 407-622-2010.

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+1 #17 Jim 2013-05-29 12:04
Obviously the the trash thing was wrong and can be easily corrected. Its certainly not a reason not go a 2nd time. I couldn't disagree more with what you said about the food. If you enjoy a burger with grease dripping all over you, this is not the place to go....The burgers are all natural and dont make you feel like sh** when you are done eating. You may not like it, its fine but many and most will
0 #16 Brian 2013-03-27 11:06
I went to Burger-Fi once, and only once. Your description of the bland, over-priced food is spot-on. Trust me when I say, if you're in the mood for a burger, it's worth the drive down to Millenia to go to Burger 21 - similar concept, far, far greater execution.
+1 #15 Leslie 2012-09-24 11:22
While I agree that the act of the petulant child was unprofessional and needed to be addressed, in defense of the food runner who never got the manager, if a customer said to me that I should notify a manager of another employee's behavior it wouldn't occur to me to also send the manager over to that customer. For all you know she did tell the manager that you were unhappy, but if you didn't request specifically to speak to him the first time I don't think it's fair that she didn't read your mind and send him over.
+1 #14 Phil 2012-08-29 10:31
I went the first week the place was open since I work down the street. I was not impressed with the food and the price as well. I am much happier spending my money on Chipolte than tossing it into the tasteless Burgerfi abiss. P.S. The "Custard" malts are terrible as well. Being someone from Wisconsin where custard is a standard, I was severely disappointed at what they called custard.
0 #13 Bobby 2012-08-28 09:53
Agree to disagree Scott.

I was at Shake Shack in NYC the week before I tried the Park Ave BurgerFi for the 1st time. I duplicated their smokehouse burger with the BurgerFi menu (Double Angus, Cheddar, Cherry Peppers, Bacon, Special Sauce). In my opinion it was every bit as good as Shake Shack - which to many people is the pinnacle of the 'better burger' concepts out there. The leg-up that BF has is that their beef is grass-fed and vegetables are organic - not obvious unless you read their marketing stuff.

The restaurant has breathed some life into that dead block of Park Ave. The crowds and repeat customers I've talked to in my subsequent visits all seem to like it too.

I'll be back. The atmosphere is cool. The music is pretty good. The patio is fun. The service - hey it was great when I was there. But most important - the burgers are tasty and the beer is cold...

- BP
0 #12 Pete Freeman 2012-08-23 23:58
I tried to warn her but, my girlfriend insisted on trying Burger Fi.
Actually, the only thing that stunk was the food this time.....burger dry as a popcorn fa#t.....lukewa rm fries and extra greasy onion rings.
Staff was really great, friendly, helpful...excep t they did NOT tell me to put the buzzer thingy on that "Team America" seal.....NOR did they say "Don't put your iPhone on that thing or it will freeze for 10 minutes"
They have moved up to a solid 4 on a scale of 1 - 10 from the previous 2 (which I attributed to opening jitters)
0 #11 danielle 2012-08-21 16:05
I have to say... I have eaten at burgerfi since it has opened 4 times. I absolutely LOVE IT. I'm sure my trainer isn't thrilled I eat there so much, but I cant help it! Its so good! I think what I like the most about it, besides the burgers and fries being so delicious, is that I don't feel greasy or gross full when I leave. Its good quality products. Its the perfect size serving, and I'm a small girl, and I feel this way. I always get the bacon cheese burger with whole wheat bun (the bun is good, I promise) and I share fries with my guest. Its my favorite thing to do recently on Saturday afternoon's, after the farmers market!:-) I'm sorry you had a bad experience, perhaps you should give it another shot... everyone has an off day. :-)
0 #10 Karilyn Rust 2012-08-16 16:59
Additional comment. Have tried to e-mail without results so will post here. Seems there are some technical changes on this website and it's kind of messed things up. Getting lots of "you can't look at this page" messages. (Paraphrasing there.) Love this site; love the reviews and other info; love the comments, but I hope someone will take a look at the problems. And can you let me know how to edit my profile? This all used to work so well.
0 #9 Karilyn Rust 2012-08-16 16:53
Been having problems posting comments here for well over a week. Finally, in frustration, set up a new account. Hope this works. As for Burger-Fi, this is not the way our burger looked. Ours was just stamped with a lightly toasted logo, not burned. This should have gone back. We liked Burger-Fi. For fast food, it quite good. The large variety of preservative-fr ee hot dogs was a plus for me. The root beer float was excellent with enough ice cream (frozen custard?) and a whole bottle of root beer. Also, fast food doesn't offer beer and wine. We saw lots of people chugging down a nice cold one. The place was full the night we were there. With Rollins next door this should do well, but the evening we were there, there were lots of older couples and families with kids. My suggestion, if you're in the area, try it for yourself and decide. We will go back.
+1 #8 Jason Coon 2012-08-08 14:42
I was thinking about trying BurgerFi soon, but now most likely not. The trash and manager debacle notwithstanding , it's your description of the food that really disuades me from wanting to go there. There're other places more deserving of my money. Thanks for the heads-up.

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