In 2006, when McDonalds was nothing more than an urban legend, Burgerman was a brand that brought us double patty burgers and sausages on a stick, which only Americans on Star Movies and HBO ate during meal times. Burgerman was the result of a college project that went rogue and took over Chennai. Sunil Cherian, the owner of the brand, decided to serve fast food even faster when he found a way to make and dispense delicious burgers out of 25 sq. feet kiosks around the city.
Burgerman burgers had a unique taste, were easy on the pocket and made available to everyone through the 50 kiosks that opened in the city. Once we got hooked, we let ourselves get reeled right in! Soon, veteran customers took to being a part of the burger making process and asking for extra sauce, knowing full well that it would drip down their faces as they bit into their juicy burgers. Their delicious mayonnaise was for those who liked their burgers to be rich and creamy, the barbeque sauce was for people who liked their burgers to have a slightly sweet flavor and their fiery Mexican sauce was to appease the taste buds of those who liked Andhra food. Whatever combination of sauces we liked, the men who worked in the burgerman kiosks were always very understanding of our preferences and generous in their servings.
Those of us who were paying attention realized, starting from around 2009, a lot of the Burgerman kiosks in the city were beginning to be replaced by random burger brands. We found ourselves travelling all the way from Anna Nagar to Nungambakkam to eat our favorite brand of burgers. At a time when autos in Chennai did not run on meters and getting anywhere to anywhere required a good ten minutes of heated haggling, this was quite a level of commitment to feel towards a brand.
In 2014, the only kiosk standing is the one on Cathedral road and that too, just till the end of the month. Come May, the brand that fed Chennai burgers before McDonald’s found its way here will shut shop. “Burgerman started in my garage and the brand was built out of passion, I do not want to give it out to franchisees.”, says Sunil Cherian as he bids adieu to his burger brand, to take over his family business, after opening the 100 burgerman kiosks that he hoped to. “I still own the brand, I’m not giving that up. So the day Chennai needs a good burger place, we’ll come back”, says Mr. Cherian, laughing as he realizes that he sounds like quite the Dark Knight!