Taking a Bite Out of Big Burrito
Why Pittsburgh’s most influential restaurant group has stuck around
For the last 25 years, since opening its first Med Mex in 1993, Big Burrito Restaurant Group has helped change the way Pittsburghers think about what they eat. The locally based hospitality group boasts six unique concepts, ranging from Mediterranean to Mexican, and includes 13 Med Mex locations, a catering company and 1,100 employees. We talked with Bill Fuller, president and corporate chef, about BBRG’s staying power in Steel City.
Restaurant Inc.: Why did BBRG’s concepts all seem to catch on with locals?
Bill Fuller: Luck happens or it doesn’t; it’s what you do with it that counts. The real honest answer is that we got started here at a time when Pittsburgh was making a transition. People were moving here to work at the universities and in research and had expectations to go out like they did in New York and London and wanted those amenities. There was a desire here for a little more. Dining was traditional with waiters in suits. The founders had the idea to design a restaurant with good music, microbrews, vegetarian options, cooking from scratch. It’s not like we didn’t work hard.
RI: How have things changed within the company over the last 25 years?
BF: We were the hot young thing, and we had an arrogance about us. Everyone wanted to work for us. People now want to work for us because it’s a good environment, we pay fairly, we’re mindful of their family lives and (we) treat people with respect. We used to do what we wanted to do, and now we want to know if we’re providing what our guests want and we try to meet their expectations. That’s important.
RI: You have six different concepts. How do you stay creative at each one?
BF: The people we hire we try to vest them into the continued creation of the concept. We hire and train those chefs to evolve within the structure, trying to take our guidelines and let our people’s creativity work inside them to keep it going. We have a lot of people who’ve been with us for a long time.
RI: What do you offer Pittsburgh other groups don’t?
BF: What we offered originally was new ideas, and now people are coming to (Pittsburgh) with new concepts all the time. But you can walk in (our) doors and be sure you’re getting a good meal at a beautiful restaurant with good service every time.