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What Fergburger can teach you about business

Ever eaten a Fergburger? Ever even heard of Fergburger? If you’re heading to Queenstown anytime soon you probably will.

Ever eaten a Fergburger? Ever even heard of Fergburger? If you’re heading to Queenstown anytime soon you probably will.

 

From one-man starting out in 2001 flipping burgers on a couple of cheap barbecues in a “hole in the wall”, to a now multi-award winning NZD$60m a year retail business employing 60 people. Fergburger is one of Queenstown’s biggest success stories for so many reasons.

And not all of them are what you might expect.

Fergburger is so popular and so legendary that there is pretty much a line of varying sizes (literally spilling out down the street and beyond) all day long from 8am in the morning until 5am when it closes – seven days a week. That’s an amazing 21 hours a day trading. Every day except Christmas day.

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The menu. It’s Serious, Napoleon. Pic: Matt Leedham

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A very well oiled machine operating 21 hours a day, 7 days a week. Pic: Matt Leedham

It’s even been hailed as ”maybe the best burger joint on the planet” by CNN.

So why then? I hear you ask is this place, located 362kms from Christchurch in faraway New Zealand’s South Island worshipped like a god?

Maybe it’s because the outstanding burgers are all handmade with locally sourced ingredients and served on buns baked next door at Ferg’s very own bakery.

Maybe it’s the wide array of creatively mashed up tastes such as the Little Lamby, made with prime New Zealand lamb and smothered with mint jelly, aïoli, and tomato relish. Or the Sweet Bambi, a wild Fiordland deer burger with Thai plum chutney.

On my visit there (and after several beers I might add) I smashed down Mr Big Stuff, which is a whole ½b of succulent prime beef, streaky bacon, lettuce, tomato and aïoli. Mmm indeed. And yes, it was delicious.

Maybe it’s the buzzing vibe when you go into the shop, the funky young folks that run the place or that feeling you get when you know you’re about to experience something extraordinary.

Rumour has it pretty much the entire Lord of The Rings and Hobbit cast and crew have had a few Ferg’s themselves, not to mention numerous other visiting celebrities too. I’m sure even Sir Peter Jackson himself has had a couple of ‘Holier than thou’ burgers after a long days shooting.

Undoubtedly it’s probably all those things. But for me, it’s their founding ethos that’s what really shines and I say this from personal experience.

Fergburger rebuffs franchise and buy out bids every day of the week. There’s no dreams of golden arches here. It’s never employed anyone in sales or marketing since its beginnings as a ”hole in the wall” operation 12 years ago. Instead they’ve focused on the basics and it’s spread by word of mouth like the delicious BBQ aroma that hits you streets away from the place.

Everything they make is handmade every day and in their own words, business excellence just comes down to “constant attention and non-compromise on a quality product”. It’s this refusal to compromise on standards or founding principles that’s what makes it such a stand out.

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Mr big stuff. And it was. Pic: Matt Leedham

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And they keep on coming. Pic: Matt Leedham

The night after I’d tasted my first Fergburger I was back for more. But having firstly enjoyed a few delicious local Pinot Noirs at a black tie dinner I was disappointed to find a large queue full of fellow revellers who’d got there before me. So feeling the pains of hunger whilst dressed in a black dinner suit and tie in the adventure capital of New Zealand (and feeling a tad awkward), I nipped into the Fergbakery next door (also open all night) to find no queue and ordered a couple of Ferg pies instead.

Sliding my note to the fellow behind the counter to pay he immediately slid it back to me. “Eh?” He pointed behind me to where a man and woman were standing, also smartly dressed and smiling. “You look really smart so I’d like to pay for your pies” the man said. “Oh, ok” I blurted out “Thank you!”. I didn’t really know what to do or say, so I shook his hand, collected my pies and walked out of the shop waving and wondering, “What was that all about?”. Turns out my pie angel was Fergburgers General Manager Stephen Bradley.

Mr Bradley didn’t know me from a bar of soap, but his generous gesture says it all when it comes to word of mouth marketing and generating business good will. Fergburger is a universal success and it’s easy to see why. Great product, fantastic service, solid ethics and a clear focus of what they want to achieve, without compromise. But most of all – a generosity of spirit to both their customers and the wider community alike.

I will now be telling my Fergburger story to everyone I meet. It cost them two pies. But I would have been telling it anyway.

Have you heard of Fergburger? Or been there? Share you story!