Queenstown's Fergburger fights off chain offers

Fergburger general manager Stephen Bradley says the business  rebuffs national and international...
Fergburger general manager Stephen Bradley says the business rebuffs national and international franchise inquiries every day. Photo by James Beech.
Concentrating on quality, a great environment and a family atmosphere among staff is the recipe of success for Fergburger, the burger bar which has become as much a part of Queenstown as skiing and bungy jumping.

Queuing for a Fergburger is a ''must-do'' for many visitors to Queenstown.

Customers spill out on to Shotover St as they wait for their orders and can queue for more than an hour at peak times, but Fergburger is in demand every day and it is all down to word of mouth.

The company has never employed anyone in sales or marketing since its beginnings as a ''hole in the wall'' operation 12 years ago.

''We still make our sauces handmade fresh every day, we still make the beef patties ourselves by hand and the buns come from our bakery,'' Fergburger general manager Stephen Bradley said.

''It's just constant attention and non-compromise on the quality product.''

Fergburger started in Cow Lane, in February, 2001, opening from midnight to 5am, seven days a week.

There is no straight answer to the question of how the Fergburger name originated. Staff will tell you ''Ferg'' is everyone from the first person to swim naked to Glenorchy to the first man to go down the Shotover River in a barrel.

A man's stern and bearded face is used as the Fergburger logo and looks not unlike William Gilbert Rees, the founder of Queenstown.

Mr Bradley said as Fergburger's reputation grew it began catering for the dinner, then lunch, crowds, until it remained open for 23 hours a day every day except Christmas Day.

The business moved to its present premises on Shotover St in June 2005, ''showing a belief in the product and a belief in Queenstown,'' Mr Bradley said.

It employs up to 80 staff in six daily shifts. Staff form lasting friendships, party together and take pride in their work, Mr Bradley says.

The company diversified into pies, pastries and breads when Fergbaker opened in July 2011.

Fergbaker is now just as busy as Fergburger and its success has been a pleasant surprise for management, ''but it's also been a lot harder than we ever dreamed,'' Mr Bradley said.

''The challenge is finding quality staff, like for anyone in this town, and in the bakery you have a hundred-plus products you need to make perfect every day ... it's been immensely challenging.

''While there are no plans to move to larger premises, Fergburger chiefs are always thinking of ways to improve the operation, from staff induction to equipment used, to maintain the highest standards, Mr Bradley said.

Rebuffing daily franchise bids is part of the legend of Fergburger, but ''we're just very proud of the product and the quality that we offer here in Queenstown,'' he said.

''If we were to have taken up on those offers, I don't think we'd have the same control, the same product, the same special experience and we believe in Queenstown.

''We want to keep it as one little special place for those lucky enough to visit Queenstown.''

 

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