Sometimes change can be hard to swallow, but at Ben's Burgers (2008 Clearview Parkway, Metairie, 504-889-2837; www.eatatbens.com), the bite is tasty. Ben Collier took ownership of the Metairie Bud's Broiler location in 2012 and left the franchise in 2016, then renamed the restaurant. Collier has put his mark on the eatery since then.
"We upgraded the whole menu," Collier says. "We have better quality meats, doubled the size of the chicken sandwich and we expanded the menu to include hot sausage patties."
Collier created his own hickory smoke sauce, as well as fry dipping sauce that can be added to any sandwich. He's also created a new signature sandwich called the Big Ben, which offers double beef, bacon and french fry sauce topped with chili cheese fries.
The restaurant has been a part of Collier's life since he was a freshman in high school. His sister opened the restaurant as part of the Bud's Broiler franchise in 2001, and his first job there was toasting the buns.
"I was 14 going on 15 and I could barely see over the counter," Collier says.
He later was given responsibility for fries and drinks, and next he learned to work the grill and make sandwiches. Eventually he worked the register.
"After five or six years, I went to the back office to help my sister," he says. "I learned the paperwork and the money side."
Having worked in all aspects of the restaurant, Collier was well prepared to take over the Bud's Broiler and then to rebrand as Ben's Burgers.
"Being here so long, you get to know a lot of the customers," he says. "We have some regulars that have been coming since I was a kid. They are like extended family. It's also nice to get to know new faces."
Although there have been changes, there are constants between Bud's Broiler and Ben's Burgers.
"We 100 percent have always been charcoal-grilled since conception," Collier says.
The restaurant remains open 24 hours daily and features the same humorous cow decor it has had since 2001.
"[I], my dad and my sister all painted this stuff," Collier says. "Everything is pretty much exactly the same. ... We changed the name and changed the menu around a little bit."
Above the drink station is a picture of Collier dressed as Cyborg Saint, Collier's New Orleans Saints "Superfan" persona.
"People knew the costume and the Superfan, but they didn't know that I owned [Ben's Burgers]," he says. "I tried to tie the two together. ... It gave people a reason to come try us."
Collier says that initially there was some resistance to the new ownership.
"People were used to going to Bud's [Broiler] and were used to this being a Bud's [Broiler]," he says. "When they found out that we were the same people who have been here for the last 15 years, they gave us a shot. It was about going out on our own and making a name for ourselves. It's been a positive change."