Business partners Ravi Patel and Hiren Trivedi recently opened BUILT Custom Burgers, a fast-causal restaurant, in the new Alston Town Center at 5033 Arco St., Cary.
At BUILT, the customer is in charge of his or her burger, with choices that include four protein options, five cheeses, 20 toppings, 10 sauces and the choice of four breads or two fresh greens as bun substitutes.
Crain’s Raleigh-Durham caught up with the duo, who are still reporting to work every day at their respective day jobs.
Q: You both have careers in banking? What drew you to that field?
Patel: Right out of college, I started working for Credit Suisse. What drew me to banking initially was that I loved numbers. Growing up, I just loved dealing with numbers and math, and that job was a very good job where I could work with numbers all day and deal with formulas.
Q: How does one go from a career in finance to an entrepreneurial burger endeavor?
Trivedi: What drew us from banking to entrepreneurship was the eagerness to always learn more, to research and to understand. We first opened a small store in Durham and, eventually, Ravi had the idea of opening a restaurant. He drew me into it, but he didn’t want to do a regular restaurant. He wanted to do something really basic. That was the whole concept behind BUILT. We went through 25 or 30 different franchises, but they didn’t really understand what we were trying to achieve.
We wanted to achieve a culture; we wanted a creative outlet. Even the parent brand has grown that way. They’re all over the world. What grew them was their customer. Most of their locations were in airports. That’s the whole story of how they opened – they followed the customer.
Q: Are you both still working your day jobs in banking or is all your time dedicated to BUILT Custom Burgers?
Patel: We’re taking it day by day right now, but we’re still at our day jobs. We’re able to manage it right now, but, as we expand, we’ve hired an area manager to oversee the general managers at each store (BUILT also has a location in Durham’s Southpoint Mall). We’ll probably have to re-evaluate our day jobs to see if it makes sense to stay there or if it makes sense to expand further and be more involved in the restaurants. Right now, we’re taking it day by day, restaurant by restaurant, and, knock on wood, we’ve been very lucky on that front.
Trivedi: We’re taking it day by day, and we’re enjoying the whole journey of seeing the “baby” grow. We did our first research into opening a restaurant in the area three and a half years ago. It’s exciting to see so much hard work come to life. We had some jitters, but our customer reach was phenomenal from Day 1. It makes us happy how people connect on a very basic level.
Q: Why did you choose to open a business in the Triangle area, and in Cary, specifically?
Trivedi: The brand, itself, is about connecting with people organically. We wanted to open the restaurant in a place that wasn’t oversaturated. We wanted to grow with the area. When we went for a franchise, they weren’t sure if it would work. Nobody on the other side of the country knows where Cary is. They visited and saw how things were so connected locally.
Patel: We chose Cary, specifically West Cary, because it’s the last part of Cary that wasn’t really developed yet – businesswise and housing wise. We saw the growth potential more there than in the Crossroads neighborhood of Cary, for example. We saw the growth potential and the franchise also saw the growth potential. We both live about five or 10 minutes away from that location and about 15 minutes away from the Southpoint location, so we chose an area that is easily accessible for us.
Q: In the Cary/Mooresville area, there seems to be an abundance of fast-casual concepts popping up. How is your restaurant different from the others? What does it offer customers that’s currently not out there?
Patel: The quality of the food and the value is what sets us apart. We have very high-quality, antibiotic-free Angus beef. What’s sets us apart, though, is the one price you see is what you pay, no matter what toppings you put on your burger – bacon, guacamole, mushrooms. It’s all the same price. We’re not going to nickel and dime you for extra toppings like they might at another burger concept.
Trivedi: What sets us apart is the experience, the culture and the lifestyle. When we did the first BUILT in Southpoint, we would see the joy that people got from building their own burger. It’s not what we want you to have on your burger; it’s what you want to have on your burger. The burgers are colorful, they’re joyful and they’re exciting. That’s what sets us apart.