This article is part of “Greek New York’s Finest,” our series dedicated to supporting Greek American-owned businesses in our home base of New York City that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This series of unique stories aims to bring these businesses more attention, publicity and support.
As a third-generation restaurateur, Belmore, Long Island native John Galatoulas knows a thing or two about food service and hospitality.
The 24-year-old has experienced every aspect of the industry — from starting as a dishwasher to running the kitchen as a head chef.
Now Galatoulas is embarking on his and his family’s latest venture, which is a fast food establishment called Burgerology Express, located in Syosset, New York. The express model is a spinoff of their already well-established Burgerology chain which has seen six locations spring up in the New York City area since 2016.
“The main difference from Burgerology is that with Burgerology Express we’ve scaled everything down,” Galatoulas tells The Pappas Post. “This means we went from having about 30 to 40 menu items to having 18 to 20, serving quarter-pound burgers instead of half-pounders and we do not cook to temperature and instead all of our burgers are medium well or well done.”
One detail that remains the same — and the one which Galatoulas says separates his store from competition like Five Guys, Shake Shack and so on — are the USDA Prime beef burgers.
“This is steakhouse quality beef in a burger,” he says. “And the quality is all because of where we get our meat from.”
Burgerology Express’ meat comes from the Seattle-based Snake River Farms, a premium meat brand that’s used at Michelin-starred restaurants and sold at select retailers and online.
Galatoulas has to pay a higher price for the product, but he believes it’s essential for keeping with his brand motto: “Quality counts.”
The store manager also prides himself on offering hand-cut french fries made every morning from real Idaho potatoes.
“About 90% of the food here is made from scratch in the kitchen,” he says. “As an express location, we do want the service to be as fast as it can be, but only without ruining the quality.”
Photographs / Darden Livesay, The Pappas Post
Burgerology Express opened on March 3 and since then has seen lines out the door during peak hours, which typically include Friday and Saturday dinner time.
Many visitors include Galatoulas’ own friends and family, who he says have provided “honest feedback” as he continues to develop the store and cultivate staff.
“I’m very food at developing people,” he says. “The most important part is having good staff. Once you find your key players, everything else comes into place.”
Galatoulas got his own start working at the now-closed Empress Diner in East Meadow, New York, as a high schooler. Shortly thereafter he transitioned to cleaning dishes at his family’s Massapequa-based Burger Bar in 2015. The experience shaped him and led him to his current position.
“We had no dishwashing machine. My dad had me wash with my hands in the beginning,” he says. “Even though it was only five years ago and I was so annoyed then, I’m actually happy about it now because I learned how to work hard.”
Following his father and grandfather’s footsteps
The Galatoulas family’s restaurant experience began in 1967, when John’s namesake grandfather immigrated to New York from the Greek island of Chios with less than $10 in his pocket. Upon arrival he began working at Soup Burg, a once beloved coffee shop in the Upper East Side which since closed in July 2014.
In 1980, in the same neighborhood, he opened his own shop called The Little Den, where John’s father Eddie received his introduction to the business.
After Eddie had success with push carts and coffee trucks in the city, he launched Burgerology, which has since become a New York institution after receiving viral social media attention.
Now John hopes to blaze his own path as a restaurateur while relying on a familiar formula. Hospitality.
“As Greeks, hospitality is a huge part of our identity and that’s what we try to incorporate at Burgerology and Burgerology Express,” Galatoulas says. “Even though it’s an express location, you still have to be good and cultivate relationships with the customer.”
Galatoulas’ average workday includes up to 14 hours, every day of the week. But he’s loving it.
“You got to love it. It doesn’t feel like work,” he says. “Seeing it come to life has taken a lot of mental hours but I love putting something down on paper and then doing it.”
The menu at Burgerology Express includes a variety of burgers, chicken sandwiches, fries, salads and shakes. Plant-based and vegan options are available.
The store is located on 408 Jericho Turnpike in Syosset, New York, and is open every day from 11:00am to 10:00pm. For more information, visit their website.
Video footage and editing by Darden Livesay.
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