How product price, quality and blind testing helped Juicy Buns to thrive during COVID-19
Caleb Dalziell wasn’t always in hospitality. The co-owner and manager of The Tribute Coffee + Kitchen was a project manager with a commerce background before he made the move to foodservice. He and his partner were looking for a way to be more involved in the community, rather than work behind a desk. So, he took up a job in a café as a barista to learn the ropes for a year before taking the plunge and launching his own business.
Nearly four years later and The Tribute Coffee + Kitchen is one of the most popular brunch spots in the sleepy suburb of Shelley, 15 kilometres south of Perth’s CBD. But they’re not resting on their laurels. The team has acquired a well-loved pop-up burger brand – Juicy Buns – and given it a permanent home at The Tribute.
And they’re taking their burgers very seriously.
2020 has not been an easy year for new foodservice businesses with some level of service restrictions in place across all states. Juicy Buns was only open in its new home for around nine months, with trade limited to Friday and Saturday nights, when they were forced to move to strictly takeaway due to COVID-19.
But no one would have suspected that even with restrictions, Juicy Buns were in such high demand that they ended up extending their trading hours so locals could get their burger fix.
And it wasn’t just locals:
“Our demand actually increased during COVID-19 because so many of the CBD-based burger venues closed as more and more city workers were staying home. We saw a lot of locals coming out of their homes looking for a treat at lunchtime but also way more UberEats orders from further afield. I think people were more attuned to takeaway at the time which suited us down to the ground. It was really nice to give the people in the suburbs a little something to look forward to.”
The team at Juicy Buns are sticklers for quality, which is probably the key to their success. When it was a pop-up only burger brand, Juicy Buns was regularly selling out, with lines out the doors and loyal customers tracking them across the city to get their late-night burger fix. Now, with a permanent home, the demand is as strong as ever (plus they’re easier to find).
Caleb and the team at Juicy Buns are always looking for quality products with superior taste. Which is why they blind taste test every product that comes in their door.
“When we’re trying new products, first and foremost it is a conversation of quality,” says Caleb. “We research what we need, get a list of suppliers and bring them all in for sampling. We always try our best to narrow down the product as objectively as possible.”
But it’s not just quality that needs to be considered. “A huge part of decision making is obviously around pricing. No matter how good a product is, if it’s not priced well enough, we can’t build a business model for it. There is no point putting caviar on a burger.”
You can see Caleb’s product ethos when you look at the Juicy Buns menu. From a buttermilk fried chicken with maple glazed bacon to a classic beef burger with “JBs famous Juicy sauce”, all the offerings make the mouth water, but none of them break the bank. “We do student discounts and try to keep our costs low so everyone can enjoy a ‘cheat night’ every now and again I guess,” he says.
There is also a nod to dietary requirements. “Vegan and gluten free offerings have become a standard requirement in hospitality, 100%. I’ve certainly seen a move toward all things vegetarian and gluten free across both the café and Juicy Buns.”
But finding a gluten free bun that was up to scratch was not an easy task for the team.
“When we were kicking off Juicy Buns, we were blind tasting a number of different gluten free buns and none of them were outstanding. The one option that tasted okay was this huge bun that absolutely swamped our patties, it was massive and super ‘bready’. Aesthetically it just didn’t work, but we didn’t have many other options, so we begrudgingly stuck with it.”
The problem with gluten free buns is often their inability to hold all the sauces. Juicy Buns burgers live up to their name – they’re juicy. So, the team was on the hunt for a bun that didn’t disintegrate as you ate it (or even before that!).
“We were given a sample of the Tip Top Gluten Free bun recently and it blew everything else out of the water. It ticked all the boxes for size, flavour, texture and it could hold all the sauces without falling apart.”
But it needed to pass the final test. And following a gluten free diet himself, Caleb is a bit of an expert.
“We wanted to see how it would go if it was delivered by UberEats as that is a huge market for us. So, we made the burger, wrapped it up and threw it under the heat lamps for 20 minutes, then did a taste test. It hadn’t gone soggy, it hadn’t fallen apart, so we knew we’d found a great product.”
“I think it tastes better than some of the non-gluten free buns out there to be honest.”
You can find Juicy Buns in Shelley, 15kms south of Perth’s CBD. They are open Wednesday – Sunday with a full menu at dinner and limited menu at lunch. You can also BYO to dinner.