By Elliot Grandia
Entirely East Lansing staff writer
EAST LANSING — There’s a new kid on the block, in terms of burger eateries. Bagger Dave’s opened up for business on Sept. 17, according to General Manager Teresa Goss, joining the ranks of other burger establishments in East Lansing like Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Peanut Barrel.
The East Lansing venue is the fifth Bagger Dave’s to open, Goss said, adding that the franchise is expanding to Grand Rapids, too.
“We chose this area because of constant flow of traffic coming into the area. We had great success in our Ann Arbor location — the University helps.” Goss said.
But Bagger Dave’s isn’t aimed solely at the college crowd.
“If you are looking for somewhere to get drunk, we are not the place; we are only open until 11 p.m. on weekends. But if you want to sit down and enjoy beer with your burger in the company of family and friends, you’ve come to the right place.” Goss said.
The distinct options on the menu were an effort to break away from the mold and compete with the neighboring restaurants; something Management Assistant Professor Ralph Heidl said is key for any new business.
“The mantra for staying alive in a fast moving industry is continuous innovation,” Heidl said.
The menu offers a wide range of specialty sandwiches from the “Michigan meltdown” which is the restaurant’s take on grilled cheese to a peanut butter, honey and banana sandwich.
“Our fries get a lot of attention, too, especially the “Sloppy Dave’s Fries” because they are something different from you typical cheesy fries; our sauce sets them apart,” Goss said.
The burgers, however, are the main draw.
One burger that is sure to make customers do a double-take is the “Train Wreck” which consists of a fried egg, fries, sauteed onions and mushrooms, two ground beef patties and topped with a thousand island-like sauce.
“Hands-down, the “create your own burger” is the most popular; you can come once a week for a year and still have more combinations to try,” Goss said.
“The waiter probably got tired of waiting for us to order; there was just too many choices that looked good. I had to order fries just so I could have more time,” Cathy Basala, a Bagger Dave’s customer, said.
The menu was a collaborative effort of the owners and managers, according to Goss
“We actually all started low on the totem pole at restaurants; mostly as cooks, so we knew what would taste good,” Goss said.
Goss hopes the ambiance will also attract more customers.
“It’s got a fun and inviting feel; the walls are decorated with old pictures of the city – something we do in all of our locations, Goss said adding, “…and kids love the train; it’s something fun for them to watch while they wait for their food.
Goss said the Bagger Dave’s staff have to do as much as they can to attract customers due to the different challenges presented by building a business in a college town.
Economics Professor Chris Ahlin said, “Some challenges for businesses (in college towns) are the seasonality of population (fewer people in the summer) and the student budget, which is not always able to pay for quality,” but added that the constant out-of-town visitors especially during football season and the heavy foot traffic can alleviate some of those issues.
Goss said it is hard to gauge how well the restaurant is doing yet.
“We always have a constant flow, but haven’t really caught onto any patterns yet. Sometimes, we will catch a rush at the most random times and other times we will prepare for one and it ends up not being too busy,” Goss.
Goss said that her team has also done some promoting to help get the word out.
“I went around campus the other day and passed out quarters with our logo on the back of them, and this morning I was on the radio endorsing Bagger Dave’s,” Goss said adding that she hopes word of mouth from happy customers will help get the word out too.