As part of this year’s theme for Black History Month, “February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day.”, we’re pleased to focus this spotlight on Toronto’s Aunty Lucy’s Burgers.
The ideal model of a restaurant success story during the pandemic, they’re also an outstanding example of a black-owned, African-influenced business and we’re proud to celebrate their continued rise to the top as one of Toronto’s most celebrated restaurants.
Offering familiar favourites like smashed burgers, chicken sandwiches, and fried chicken, Aunty Lucy’s throws in a distinctly West African/Ghanaian twist to their recipes and street food dishes. And the public can’t get enough of them.
Succeeding through Cultural Diversity
With humble beginnings as a pop-up shop, Aunty Lucy’s Burgers was consistently sold-out, every day, before they closed.
Remarkably, this all happened in the middle of the pandemic. It has since grown to become a downtown mainstay, having relocated and expanded to The Annex neighbourhood, near the University of Toronto.
Owner Chieff Bosompra opened Aunty Lucy’s because he enjoys the togetherness that food brings to people. “I felt like, going out in Toronto, going to different restaurants, going out to eat with your friends…at some point in time, I wanted to create my own atmosphere, where my friends and I could enjoy food that we liked and just have drinks and come together. And burgers were a food that I really enjoyed, so that was the initial inspiration.”
As a new restaurateur, Bosompra wanted to provide something that was at once familiar and unfamiliar to the public. So, he decided to offer a twist on the ever-popular burger by culturally mashing up the tastes and including popular Ghanaian street foods and flavours, like Ghanaian joloff rice, fried plantains, and their special Ghanaian House Hot Sauce.
“It’s kind of dope because a lot of people who come here might have never heard of these items, so you can come here and try them for the first time, alongside one of our burgers. And now they’ll leave this place, aware of a different culture and aware of different products that they (otherwise) wouldn’t have been. “
When it comes to cultural diversity in the foodservice industry, Bosompra wants to help shine a light on communities that might not currently have mass appeal. That is, smaller markets that have already intense appeal to the communities that are aware of them.
Advice for Improving Restaurant Exposure
With regard to providing advice for helping other new restaurants succeed, Bosompra notes that the use of social media and especially delivery apps for his restaurant helped increase awareness for Aunty Lucy’s in Toronto’s neighbourhoods. “They’re great for bringing in a new customer base to our restaurant, who otherwise might not be aware of us, and allowing those people to order over the app and then receive their food quickly and easily.”
A Runaway Success Story
If restaurants are judged by their customers and their peers, Aunty Lucy’s Burgers is a textbook study in success. The restaurant has been praised as one of the best by Toronto’s chefs, named “Toronto’s Hottest Burger Joint” by Complex Magazine and The Daily Hive, praised as “One of the Reasons to Love Toronto” by Curiocity, name-checked by The Globe and Mail, and recommended as one of “Seven Smash Burgers You Need to Eat Now” by Toronto Life.
Bosompra’s final words of advice to people of colour wanting to start their own business is:
“Really, just do it. A lot of what holds us back is not trying, or people not believing in your ideas, or people around you, who never thought they could do something in their time, telling you to not even try.”
“But I would say, whether it’s a pop-up or however you want to get into it, just give it a try because you never know what could happen. And that’s the first step: just trying.”
Want to be our next restaurant feature? Visit this link to tell us why.