In 2017, Bitcoin was booming, Lyft and Uber were subsidizing rides with venture capital, Amazon was giving out free bananas, and the number of MoviePass memberships doubled by the end of the year.
During this time I asked myself, why not apply these economic models to dining? Many restaurants already offer free drink refills, while a rare few, like Red Robin, offer unlimited fries. Wouldn't all-you-care-to-eat hamburgers be a worthy venture as well?
I started Bottomless Burgers with fun hamburger photos on an Instagram account and some wordplay on Twitter. A few supportive friends and investors joined me at an Astroburger one night in early April.
We harbored dreams of a free-flowing and complex market of Bottomless Burger policies and derivatives, but what stuck was a simple offer: for $16, you could have unlimited hamburgers, cheeseburgers, veggie burgers, fries, and soda, from 8 to 11:30 PM, dine-in only. Locations toured the charburger joints of Greater Los Angeles, and we went from bi-weekly the first year to monthly the second, but the initial deal remained a constant.
We didn't know who our customers were, but we had an idea about who our customers wanted to become: liberated, playful, and generous with themselves. Over time, friends that partook expanded to friends of friends. We drew a group of recent college grads from the east coast, a group of roommates from the restaurant industry, and bike messengers who would show up after 5,000 calories of riding around all day. We got a few nice mentions from 5 Every Day and drew in an adventurous retired couple who wanted to participate. Laura Paul read a poem about HomeTown Buffet.
As Instragram increasingly became a way to riff on current events, we extended the Bottomless perspective to the wider world. When scientists discovered galaxies with black holes that never stop eating we said, “Send them to Bottomless Burgers!” When McDonald's workers went on strike over sexual harassment and wage theft, we offered our virtual solidarity, and then joined them on-site to pass out water bottles in person.
Later on, we sold T-shirts on the side and were able to hire Bottomless Burger Bondspersons at $15/hr. Bottomless Burgers broke even most nights, but came a bit shy of breaking even overall. After a solid two-year run, the last Bottomless Burgers closed at 11:30 PM on April 9th, 2019 at the Astroburger on Melrose and Gower.
There are few tangible remains of Bottomless Burgers, as it functioned as a temporal dining service supported by flat-rate pricing, but the internal software I created for accounting and managing orders is liberally licensed and available for use.
Next: Fitch Trecartin Studios