Like Father, Like Son: The Owners of The Company Burger Prove That Business Savvy Often Runs in the Family
NEW ORLEANS – While developing business and architectural plans for what would soon become a nationally-recognized restaurant, chef Adam Bidermen, the mastermind behind The Company Burger, says he spent nearly two years “causing chaos” and “tipping diamond trays” at Hiller Jewelry – a family business owned by his father, Joe Biderman.
Adam’s brief stint with Hiller began in 2010, shortly after he moved back to New Orleans from Atlanta, where he cooked in a high-end restaurant.
“We had a medical emergency at the (jewelry) business, and so I get a call one morning from my dad, asking: ‘Do you have a nice pair of shoes and a nice pair of pants? I need you to come in and work at the jewelry store, because our business manager is sick.’,” Adam recalled. “So I put on the nicest clothes I had, and started my relatively short employment at Hiller jewelry.”
Both Adam and Joe’s experience of working together at Hiller paved the way for launching Company Burger on Freret Street in 2011, and opening a second Company Burger location on O’Keefe Avenue in the swanky South Market District, in 2015.
The two native New Orleanians co-own and operate both flourishing businesses, and have given thought to future father-son projects.
“I saw my dad in a different setting at Hiller – a professional setting,” said Adam.
While working for Hiller, Adam learned more about salesmanship and the financial side of running business: the importance of cash flow, and the ability to pay bills and vendors throughout the year – even during summer months, when business seems to slow down for most restaurants in the city.
He was also able to develop a thorough business plan for Company Burger and present it to his father, who wasn’t moving forward with a joint venture until he’d seen a strong business and product concept – something that would convince a bank to offer them a loan. The duo had already chosen a location in an area that was primed for economic growth – 4600 Freret Street.
Since opening The Company Burger, Joe has played more of behind the scenes role by handling the finances, while Adam focuses on the winning food concept – classic American cheeseburgers created with premium angus beef patties, nestled between handmade burger buns. The restaurant also serves hand-cut fries, craft cocktails, and milkshakes made with a soft-serve base.
Adam and Joe meet on Tuesday mornings and go over topics they’ve listed on a Google Doc; they also discuss both short- and long-term company goals.
“I had to change my relationship with Adam. I had to be able to step back, which was difficult, and not look at Adam as my son, but as a business partner,” said Joe, explaining how he sets aside times to speak with Adam about business, since it would be easy to let talk of Company Burger dominate their relationship.
But this isn’t the first time Joe has had to reassess his dual role as a father and business partner. His family has owned Hiller Jewelry for nearly 100 years. He currently runs the company with his daughter, Lisa Biderman Jacobs.
“I can impart product knowledge and business knowledge, but I have to let them run with it,” said Joe. “It’s being able to phrase suggestions in a way that it doesn’t sound like you’re telling your child, who is no longer a child, what to do.”
Joe’s approach to running a family business seems to have worked.
Company Burger was a success from the start.
“It was a home run,” said Joe. “We made money the first month and never looked back. We were very lucky.”
The owners were actually scrambling to find and create products to meet the demand – without overestimating how much they would need.
“I didn’t want to keep selling out at 8:30 p.m. on a Sunday,” said Adam. “There was more business to capture, so we had to adjust all of our systems up, which was awesome. But you don’t want to grow too fast, because if sales do trail off, then you’re stuck with 20-percent more labor than you need. You don’t want to have your staff suffer needlessly, or have to trim back. It’s a balancing act.”
Adam believes his commitment to using the best ingredients is what sets Company Burger apart from other restaurants – burger joints, in particular.
“We put immense amount of care and thought into everything that we do. I think that shows when you get your tray of food,” he said. He also credits the company’s success to his staff, which he treats like family, and their ability to interact with customers and leave a good impression upon them.
Joe said that he and Adam have been approached about new projects, but they’ve passed on them for various reasons. Right now, the team is focused on making cosmetic upgrades to their current companies. With help from Adam’s wife, they recently added a shaded patio to their Freret Street location.
“I can’t even tell you how much pride we take in that. It has kind of redefined the entire experience when you’re here,” said Adam. “That’s part of what we want to accomplish this year. We’re not really looking at growing externally. We’re not looking to go into any new markets. We’re not looking at extending our logistical infrastructure any further. We’re focusing on what we do, how we do it, and how we can do it better.”
Suzanne Pfefferle Tafur is the associate news editor of BizNewOrleans.com