Young Upstarts

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Uberburger: Not So Uber After All

It’s official. Much-vaunted gourmet burger restaurant Uberburger at Millenia Walk – famous (or infamous) for its $101 wagyu beef burger with foie gras – has finally shut its doors, blaming the IMF-World Bank meetings held at Suntec City last year for its poor business.

Build it and they will come, or so the owners of Uberburger believed. Unfortunately the crowds never came, and so the high-profile and highly-publicised burger joint has shut down just after ten months.

Its closure was highlighted in a recent Straits Times Life! article on 15 February 2007, which quoted its owners blaming the recent IMF-World bank meetings held next door at Suntec City last September. Corduroy Lifestyle attributed a 90% drop in business during the 10-day meetings, with the business losing some $110,000 in September alone.  However the article also revealed that its neighbours Devi Fusion and Bab Noodles had reported booming business after the IMF meetings ended, in stark contrast to Uberburger.

So what went wrong with Uberburger and what can we, as businesses, learn from it?

1. The chief culprit is branding – the gourmet burger joint had huge branding and pricing issues.  As Cool Insider pointed out in his post “Are F&B Flops Uber Unlucky”, a burger “no matter how dolled up, is still cheap fast food”. I will pay for a super-pricey burger maybe once, and come back another time if it is really, really good.  But no more.  The ambience also felt more like a high-end Carl’s Junior than befitting of a gourmet experience, which was a common grouse with customers.  It’s a matter of positioning, and Uber got it all wrong.

2. Legal troubles and ownership – Despite co-owner Murray Aitken’s claims that Uberburger’s closing had nothing to do with two recent lawsuits involving its partners, ownership disputes usually spell big trouble for business.  The back-end of your business – especially with finances and ownership – contributes to the success of your front-end.  Ignore your back-end at your own peril.

3. Treat your customers with respect. Cool Insider got it right when he said “when I pay $101 for a meal, I expect to be pampered like a king or queen, not sit in some plasticky chairs and tables with blaring rock music”.  Their customers’ main complaint – Uberburger overpromised and underdelivered.  Treat your customer right, and they will return.  It’s not just a branding problem, it’s a business issue.

Aitken said that there are plans to relaunch Uberburger at a different location, but if the joint doesn’t clean up its act history may just repeat itself.  And this time there is no IMF-World Bank meeting to blame.

Young Upstarts is a business and technology blog that champions new ideas, innovation and entrepreneurship. It focuses on highlighting young people and small businesses, celebrating their vision and role in changing the world with their ideas, products and services.

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