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How This Florida Man Along With Wife Built a Unique Burger Joint, and Went From Debt To Success

In 2023, the burger joint made $739,000, which means that the owner was able to make $84,000 salary. 
Cover Image Source: Instagram | Build My Burgers
Cover Image Source: Instagram | Build My Burgers

Aly Lalani, a 38-year-old who worked in the restaurant industry for more than 15 years, had realized early on that he was not made for a typical desk job and therefore he worked in the restaurant industry for companies. Then in 2021, he decided to open his burger joint Build My Burgers in Orlando, Florida.

Build My Burgers is unlike any traditional fast food joint. The burger joint is unique in the way that customers can see where the food is coming from. The burger joint uses an open kitchen concept that lets customers watch their meals being made up close. According to CNBC Make It, the burger joint made $584,000 in revenue in its first year of operation. In 2023, the number increased to $739,000, which means that Lalani was able to make $84,000 salary. 

Image Source: Photo by Karolina Grabowska |Pexels
Image Source: Photo by Karolina Grabowska |Pexels

Nothing went according to Lalani's plans as he lost his father. He was going through a rough patch financially during the COVID-19 pandemic. A baby was also due. He decided to push the big opening of the store from April 2020 to January 2021.

The Pakistan-born entrepreneur says that the reason he wanted to open a burger joint stemmed from the fact that he and his wife are "big foodies." He initially wanted to own a franchise as he thought that building a brand from scratch was time consuming. However, he soon realized that all the franchises were not that affordable. So, the couple decided to go ahead and open their brand.

The two got to work in 2018 and they designed the restaurant's logo and interior. They chose colors like orange and black to give off the appearance that it was already a well-established joint. Lalani signed the lease from his storefront in 2019 and construction began pretty much immediately, as per the couple.

Pexels | Engin Akyurt
Burger and fries (representative image) | Pexels | Engin Akyurt

When the pandemic hit, Lalani, his wife and their newborn baby started living off the salary from Zahra's 9-to-5 job. Lalani kept working on the restaurant full time, despite not being sure when it would finally become operational. “I was just staying at home, living off my wife’s paycheck and just trying to pay all the bills that we could to stay afloat,” he said. Things did not get easy any time soon as their start-up budget grew and they were paying a lot of construction fees and had also taken out 218,000 in credit card debt and unsecured loans. 

All the while, Lalan was also grieving his father who passed away in December 2019. As the responsibilities piled up, he used memories of his father to motivate him further. "[It] pushed me to do more," he said.

Representative Image | Pexels | Photo by Narco Pertama
Burger and fries (representative image) | Pexels | Narco Pertama

The burger joint never got the grand opening that the two had initially planned. Lalani simply turned on the open sign in the front window on the day they felt ready. The restaurant featured special meals for the local community from free and discounted meals for college students to meals for police officers. "We want to make sure that we’re taking care of the people that are taking care of us," Lalani said.

In 2022, Zahra became the co-owner and joined the company part-time. Lalani is still working 50 hours per week. He is looking after things like restaurant operations and social media. His goals are ambitious, he first wants to set a minimum investment price of $235,000, which was roughly his original budget for trying to buy into someone else’s franchise. Then, he wants to expand to 51 franchise locations across the country in the next five years. "It just amazes me how food makes people so happy,” says Lalani. “And it feels great because it all started as a dream."