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The Burger Joint

Jay Patel, co-owner of The Burger Joint. Photo by Troy Glasgow

The owners of the first Burger Joint franchise in Memphis turned to the Greater Memphis Chamber twice for help to open the restaurant on time. Almost finished with construction, Jay and Neal Patel learned they would be required to install a water fountain like all new restaurants. Problem was, the site for it in the hallway would make the passage too narrow. The Patels reached out to Sally Whitehorn, business development consultant at the Chamber, who had visited earlier to welcome the burger business to the city. She directed the Patels to the appropriate contacts and they were able to figure out their options.

A second hurdle, acquiring a fire inspection, threatened further delay, so the Patels called Whitehorn again, and she forwarded their issue to the proper city authorities. “The next day they were in here,” Jay Patel said. “We opened two days later.”

Read Jay and Neal Patel's story below about how they brought the Burger Joint to Memphis. This story is also featured in the Entrepreneurship section of our upcoming
Memphis Crossroads Magazine.  Read any issue, anytime, online at


Two best friends who became brothers-in-law went all the way to the nation’s capital to try a burger and when they did, they had to bring it to Memphis. They knew it was just too good not to sell.

“It’s a food town,” said Jay Patel, co-owner of The Burger Joint franchise in Ridgeway Trace Center at Poplar Avenue and Interstate 240. “America loves burgers to begin with, so you can’t go wrong.”

The Patels spent much of their childhoods in separate American cities but ended up working together at the same Baskin Robbins, dipping out ice cream for customers. They became best friends, graduated from Southaven High School together and then became family. Jay Patel is married to Neal Patel’s sister, Karishma. All that worked, so they began thinking about merging their dreams of going into business. They had been raised in entrepreneur families. Both in their 20s, they shied away from the hospitality industry because of the higher initial investment and looked to restaurants. Having heard about The Burger Joint, they made a food-tasting trip to Washington, D.C. They then decided to introduce the concept of a higher-end burger to Memphis.

In the “pioneer phase” right now, The Burger Joint is expanding into the major markets, with franchises in more populated cities including Miami, San Diego and Baltimore.

Cathy Anderson, Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM), with Crye-Leike Commercial, directed the Patels to Ridgeway Trace Center, and it became the young entrepreneurs’ top pick. Having opened in 2009 right off the Poplar Avenue ramp of the interstate, it was anchored by Target, Best Buy, Staples and Sports Authority. It had good, strong anchors, and excellent foot traffic going for it. “We felt good about this site,” Anderson said. “We really felt like this would offer them the best chance for success.”

The shopping center serves a well-established, affluent part of East Memphis and Germantown, according to Weingarten Realty Investors. Within a three-mile radius, 72,642 people live and average an $80,427 annual income. The Patels argued that the burger restaurant, a quick drive from the Crescent Center and St. Francis Hospital, would draw from area corporate offices by day and the affluent residential neighborhoods by night.

“We put a lot of thought and research into it,” Jay Patel said.

The Patels admit The Burger Joint burger is, well, more expensive than your average burger, but then they also say it’s a better burger, “beefed-up,” if you will. The selections go by names like The Cuban, The Southwestern and The Wellington. The meat is “all-natural, hormone-free from grain-fed cattle.” The ingredients, depending on which type of meal is ordered, include cumin, mushrooms, caramelized onions, chipotles, swiss cheese, pork or ham. Each order is grilled over an open flame within view of customers. Jay Patel’s favorite burger is The Greek, made of ground lamb and seasonings and topped with tzatziki and feta, and Neal Patel’s favorite is the Veggie Burger, made from a recipe that includes brown rice, black beans, oats and molasses. Prices start at $6.99 and sides are extra.

The Burger Joint starts filling up with shoppers and workers shortly before noon on weekdays. The walls are decorated with posters celebrating the musical talent of the 1980s – Bon Jovi, AC/DC and Chicago. Their music mixes with the sizzle on the grill. Orders are filled within five minutes for rarer meats and take less than 12 minutes for longer cooked meals. Neal Patel, responsible for the day-to-day operations while Jay Patel works in management at another restaurant until a second Burger Joint opens, glances away from conversation from time to time to eyeball the kitchen. He calls his product “steak on a bun.”

“A lot of people, once they eat it, it’s one of the best burgers they’ve ever had,” he said. “They can really taste the quality of the meat.”

Tim Hanisco, 46, was working in the area when he stopped by The Burger Joint for his second visit one spring mid-day. He ordered The Wellington, with mushrooms and onions, and grasped the burger with both hands for a bite. “Occasionally I like a good burger,” Hanisco said, “and they have them here.”

--Toni Lepeska
Posted: 7/12/2012 10:25:28 AM | with 4 comments
Filed under: at, burger, business, chamber, joint, markets, memphis, small, work

Thanks Abhay!
7/13/2012 9:45:29 AM

Caron-thanks for the feedback! Which burger would you recommend?
7/13/2012 9:44:45 AM

Abhay Bhargava
Good to see entrepreneurship. Best wishes.
Abhay Bhargava
7/13/2012 9:40:38 AM

Caron Byrd
I've tried their burger -- it's very good.
7/12/2012 3:31:44 PM

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