Monday, July 30, 2012

Who’s Burger Bill?

Most things in Samoa happen slowly, there isn’t much rush to daily life, or even for long term projects. That’s why I was stunned when I returned to Samoa in April to find that a whole new restaurant had been built, opened and was bustling with customers in the four short months I was gone. Its name is Burger Bill’s (BB’s) and when I headed there recently to interview the manager in preparation for this blog, one of the first things I asked him was “Who’s Burger Bill?”

BB’s is located in a space directly next to Farmer Joe, which is one of Apia’s main grocery stores. The space where BB’s is now, was formerly occupied by a Fish & Chips fast food restaurant which served other basics such as hamburgers, chicken and ice cream. It was much less formal and the seating was very limited and open to the outside hustle and bustle of the market next door. It was owned by the same people who own Farmer Joe, and so is true for BB’s, which leads me back to that question about who Burger Bill really is. When I asked the manager, he admitted he didn’t know, nor did anyone on his staff. I suggested that maybe Burger Bill is the cousin of Farmer Joe, although we haven’t been able to confirm that yet.

So what’s so amazing about BB’s? For starters, their bathrooms! Good, clean, quality bathrooms are hard to come by in Apia, and it takes a well lived person of this country to know where the good ones are: McDonald’s, Coffee Bean and the smaller internet café near Janet’s come to mind. But now we have BB’s, which is a good option if you’re on the south side of town and don’t feel like crossing all the way over to McD’s. And I’m not alone with my feelings on the bathrooms: other Peace Corps friends of mine have made the same comments. In fact, one of them boasted about that before anything was said about how the food was.

And the food does happen to be good too! I asked the supervisor why people would come to BB’s instead of McDonald’s and he said because the food is fresher and cheaper. For the most part I have to agree with him. The one hamburger I’ve ordered at BB’s did seem to have fresher toppings, such as the lettuce. Although the prices are close to McD’s, some like a fountain coke, can be bought at half the price at BB’s than at McDonald’s.

I asked him what the business goals were for the restaurant and he said to bring more people in. He also told me that the highest priority of the employees is to work hard and try to invite people in.

I also asked him what BB’s was doing towards offering more healthy choices, especially since many Samoans are overweight and have diabetes. He mentioned that they were trying to offer more healthy foods, and I was able to see some evidence of that from the fruit on the counter and the coleslaw in the fridge. It’s by no means the best place to eat if you are trying to lose weight, but at least I saw some signs of them moving in the right direction.

The restaurant is clean and spacious. It feels like a natural place to have a conversation with someone over lunch or dinner. McDonald’s always seems so loud and rushed, making you feel like you’re right there working on the assembly line with them, but BB’s is much more relaxed. Although I would call it fast food, I wouldn’t say it’s as fast as McDonald’s, which is ok since it makes it feel a bit more intimate.

I’m sure I’ll still be making visits to McDonald’s from time to time, but BB’s should be happy with their service and selection. They are giving some good competition to other friendly foes, and giving a few more options for those of us who keep asking, “Who’s Burger Bill?”

The view of Burger Bill's and Farmer Joe from the other side of the road.

The spaciousness makes it more inviting than other tight spaces in Apia.

The hard working employees take a minute to be in my picture!

The lines always seem to be busy, which is of course good news for business.

Part of the menu offerings.

Some of the fresh fruit offered on the counter.

The famous talked about bathroom.

With the supervisor after our interview.

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