These fat brothers are thinking big

Benoit Boussuge is hoping for big things from a new late night burger joint in central Tauranga. Photo by John Borren.

Proudly and defiantly, unhealthy fast food – everything fat, nothing green, nothing vegetarian, nothing vegan.

That was the business model that won the heart, and the wallet, of American billionaire entrepreneur and investor, Mark Cuban. He owns NBA ball club, the Dallas Mavericks, and his premise was even sportspeople who live healthily need a cheap chip meal now and again.

It’s a model that has been seized on and shouted out in bright neon lights on Tauranga’s 1st Avenue. “Fat Brother” it says. And in the dead of night on a belly of shots, cocktails and high times, it has become an oasis.

Local entrepreneurs Benoit Boussuge and Don Grewal have opened a late night burger joint operating out of daytime Grindz Café – it’s called “Fat Brother“ – by name and nature, nothing healthy, open 6pm through 4am Thursday Friday and Saturday night, filling a fried void in the local fast food market.

“There’s only a couple of outlets fighting for the after 10pm market share,“ says Benoit. “People are saying, ‘finally! – someone who’s prepared to stay open late in Tauranga.” Especially for the pubbers and clubbers, any hungry late night reveler looking to settle a carb craving.

It started with a TV show Benoit watches. A business grad is on “The Shark Tank” presenting a business case for his “Fat Shack” idea. He wants to rent a bakery when the door closes each afternoon to make late night food for students hanging out in town.

“Fat burgers and fat sandwiches because that’s what young people are looking for late at night. Nothing healthy.”

And quicker than you could flip a burger, this young go-getter has a fist full of Mark Cuban’s investment money. He served up 100 orders on the first night and is now franchising “Fat Shacks.”

Eight thousand kilometers away, Benoit and Don are figuring how to grow the Grindz brand.

“To make more money, you must be prepared to do what others aren’t willing to do. And if you look down the street there are three cafes -all closing late afternoon. What they aren’t doing is staying open later and serving a different product to a different clientele.”

Like massive, famine smashing burgers and sandwiches, fat food, late into the night.

“I have seen ‘The Shark Tank’, I think it’s a great idea,” says Benoit.

“They have been smashing it, it’s simple and it’s working.”

And if a man with Mark Cuban’s business nous invests in an idea like this, then it must be a good idea.”

It’s also maximizing plant and premises – cranking them up twice a day , keep product going out and money coming in.

Benoit’s colleague was a little sceptical.

“He was asking why is a Frenchman, his café manager, talking to him about making burgers and franchising. But then he said let’s do it.”

They had no idea how to launch but were comforted in the knowledge that successful people don’t know everything when they go into business.

There was two months of market research, product development, creating sauces, branding and accessing quality components.

“We sat, watched and ate with the opposition.”

And then they launched.

“We had people queueing at 5pm for opening at 6pm,” says Benoit.

“We are called Fat Brother, so we welcomed all our family – the fat sister, the fat cousin, the fat father. That’s the concept, we bring the Tauranga family together.”

And the family came, and the family feasted. Five hundred cheese burgers, cheese and bacon burgers, and chicken burgers, in three hours – one every 36 seconds.   

By Kiwis for Kiwis – “The only foreign thing in our burgers is the Frenchman making them,” says Benoit, taking a swipe at the big boys – the American and Australian outlets.

“Their products only have so much meat. You take two bites of a burger, and by the third you are nibbling your own fingers.”

Benoit says Fat People burgers and sandwiches are as big as you like – single, double triple patties, with whatever, and as much whatever as you like.

“You will not leave the place hungry.”

But you will leave lighter - $13.50 to $20.50 for a burger and up to $22 for a sandwich because they are longer and larger.

But the product has good pedigree – the creator is a former Parisian chef, deli worker, and business studies and hospitality management grad who has worked the bars, clubs, resorts and a few minus five star hotels.

Crazy or courageous? It’s the story of local entrepreneurship, sharp young calculated risk takers with a belief, trying to bash up the international corporates in the middle of a global chaos.

“Hey, I can honestly say I have mastered fried chicken,” says Benoit.

“Come see me, you will be served the best.”

Great fried food waits for no pandemic.

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