[Company Spotlight] The Return of "Bugs" Burger

“Bugs” Burger Bug Killers re-launches its brand and renews its legacy.

August 20, 2008

Andrew Burger is bringing back his legacy — re-introducing “Bugs” Burger Bug Killers state by state and finding that, at least in this industry, it is easier to re-launch a strong brand name than it would be to start anew. “We had instant brand recognition,” Burger said. “When I approached chain restaurants, they knew who we were. We had a foot in the door as opposed to knocking on the door.”

BBBK HISTORY. Founded in 1960 by Burger’s parents, Al and Sandee Burger, the company was sold to S.C. Johnson in 1986 because they were given a “generous offer,” Andrew Burger said. For much of the past 20 years, Burger continued working in the industry, but the Bugs Burger name was gradually lost. SC Johnson bought the BBBK name along with the company, but soon after the sale, it began conducting business under the name of Prism. “When they changed the name from BBBK to Prism, it was very hurtful,” Burger said. “But at the end of the day, it was a good thing.”

Andrew Burger remained with the business at the time of its sale to SC Johnson, and stayed with the company for several years, then left to open a restaurant in Miami with his dad. But, Burger said, “my calling is this industry,” so he eventually returned, joining Orkin for five years. Meanwhile, Prism was sold to Orkin in 1999, at which time Burger was working for the latter company. He recommended the “Bugs” Burger name be purchased and redeveloped, but it was not, ultimately leading Burger to reintroduce the name on his own.

Today the BBBK brand name still finds instant recognition, says Burger, because many of the former managers, wait staffers, bus boys and other personnel have stayed in the industry. “These individuals are now owners, CEOs, top management and managers in the restaurant/hotel industry. I have found that people in general in the food service/hospitality industry stay in the industry, even after 20 years.”

IDEAL TIMING. Andrew Burger is finding a niche for the service, he said. “I saw a large void in the industry once my parents left the business.” It was a void caused by some in the industry “reverting back to the old ways,” he explained, such as limiting the amount of time spent in an account, not requiring customers to prep, losing focus on sanitation and providing service during business hours. At BBBK, these voids were addressed and turned into service hallmarks.

“It really comes down to the technician spending the proper amount of time,” Burger said, explaining today’s BBBK service is the same as that when his dad was in charge, with changes only to include new technologies and meet new pesticide regulations. His technicians service at night or other times that the business is closed and generally service no more than two to four accounts per night. And, he said, “We don’t service unless they prep.”

Burger also continues with the practice of clean-outs, charging four times the monthly rate for this and sending in a full team to do a thorough crack and crevice application of the account, noting, “The style of service is exactly the same.” And he has retained his father’s guarantee: “We don’t send a bill until the problem is completely eliminated.”

A NEW SPIN. The most significant changes since his dad’s day have been with insecticides, Andrew Burger said. A number of chemicals have been taken off the market and baits have gained an increasing foothold, but despite increased restrictions, Burger has tended to continue to focus on labeled crack and crevice application because of the number of competing food sources in restaurants.

The primary changes Andrew Burger has made from the operational practices of his dad are in warehousing and technology. “Because of my wide range of service areas, I’ve learned I don’t have a need for localized warehousing,” he said. Rather Burger contracts directly with distributors to either deliver or drop-ship products to his technicians’ homes. In addition, all employees have “smart phones” that utilize text messaging and service report generation.

Back in business under the Bugs Burger name for four years now, the company is licensed in 14 states, has about 1,000 customers and is growing. Servicing the hospitality industry exclusively, Burger is finding that it is chain business that most contributes to the company’s growth in both revenue and geography. One such “golden opportunity” was that of a national chain based out of Dallas that had infestations in all its 40 locations. Burger had not yet expanded to all the areas in which the chain’s stores were based, but contracting with the account provided enough reason to do so, he said.

Originally, Andrew Burger added, his intent had been to raise enough capital to grow the business through acquisition. But he didn’t raise as much money as he had wanted, so the firm has grown instead through service expansion, along with the buying of two former Bugs Burger employees’ single-person operations. Again, Burger found fate to be serendipitous, as he explained, “It has worked out better that I’m not buying other people’s problems.”

The author is a contributing writer to PCT magazine.