What started as a debate over where to get the best burger has evolved into a week-long, six-city burger contest called Le Burger Week.
The brainchild of Montreal entrepreneurs Na’eem Adam and Thierry Rassam, Le Burger Week debuted in 2012 with 30 local restaurants taking part.
“[Thierry and I] were talking about where the best burger was in Montreal and it started to become a heated debate,” said Adam, who is also VP of strategy and business development at Montreal PR firm 1Milk2Sugars. “We got some friends involved to help us answer the question and we couldn’t come to a conclusion, so we said, ‘it’s time to grow the sample size into the whole city.’” So, Le Burger Week was born.
Restaurants are invited to create a special burger at a special price (under $10) for one week alone. Customers are encouraged to try different burgers and vote for the favourites at LeBurgerWeek.com. At the end of the week several burger winners are announced, such as the People’s Favourite, Judges’ Choice, Best Veggie and the “Imposter” (i.e. not a real burger).
The contest expanded to Quebec City and Winnipeg in 2013. This year, restaurants in Toronto, Ottawa and Gatineau are also participating in Le Burger Week, which takes place Sept. 1-7. In total, more than 150 restaurants will be part of the contest.
While the main goal is to find the best burger in each city, the program also builds buzz and stimulates business for the restaurants, said Adam. “We saw that a lot of restaurants had amazing [food], but they didn’t have to resources to yell it out and talk to people and let them know what they had,” he said.
With Le Burger Week, “the restaurants get the opportunity to showcase what they can do… and deliver something that’s spectacular.” He added that the week-long event brings increased traffic to restaurants in what is typically a slow time. “So this is a fun way to jumpstart the fall season.”
There’s also a charitable component this year: Le Burger Week co-founders have donated the program to Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
“Montreal is fairly close with Haiti, so we wanted to help Haiti without just handing over a thousand dollar cheque,” said Adam. “We thought if our festival stimulates businesses and brings people together around a fun concept, that essentially is like teaching someone how to fish rather than giving them a fish. So we decided to take our whole business model and donate it to Haiti.” This year, 20 restaurants in Port-au-Prince are participating in Le Burger Week.
Adam hopes to expand Le Burger Week in all major cities across Canada, as well international destinations like Toyko, Paris and New York.