Zein decided to open her own restaurant for her family.
With both her kids, Samar and Adam, at university, she wanted to help them stay in school and study. So she created Burger Bass, a family-run hamburger joint that offers a variety of hamburgers with combined with bass music pumping through the building.
Again, the answer is family. Samar and Adam say she makes great burgers, so she decided to share her burgers with the world.
“Lots to owe – it’s expensive”
But opening your own restaurant can be hard. Not only are there costs involved in getting set up, but it costs to market, it costs to advertise, it costs to create.
Zein estimates she needs to make about $400 a day, with a chef, in order to keep opening her doors. But the amount she makes varies from day to day. It could be $1,066 one day, a good day; but only $100 the next. “Sometimes it’s up, sometimes it’s down,” she said. “You don’t know. Sometimes nobody comes at all, sometimes for lunch, sometimes for dinner.”
And then there’s the rent. “The rent is too much.”
“Everyone is nice,” Zein said, “but rent is the biggest problem.” The landlord requires money, after all, and Queen St. is a big, popular street.
“When I started I thought it would be okay because of the street traffic.” While it’s true a number of people walk down Queen St., including many tourists, Burger Bass may be too far west.
The Government of Ontario does offer business assistance. It has programs to provide aid and education for young entrepreneurs, for example. It also provides programs and advice for small businesses.
Help from others
One area in which Zein has worked is her restaurant’s design.
She painted the walls, worked on the sign.
By chance, an independent designer walked by one day. She looked in the restaurant and said, “I just have to change this place.” The designer had a ton of suggestions, including increased menu options, a slightly different colour scheme, and a bigger banner.
Zein agreed with some of the choices, but ran into another problem: the designer was asking for $500, money Zein just couldn’t afford.
Then there was the issue of marketing: another area that costs money that Zein just doesn’t have.
She considered shutting down due to all the expenses. Her children, however, wanted her to keep going, and wanted to help in any way they could.
Reddit as a free marketing tool
Of Zein’s two sons, Adam lives in Toronto, and is around to help out in the store.
Samar, however, is currently studying in Egypt. Unable to do much to physically help, he did the only thing he could: he sent a plea to the Toronto subreddit, a popular online gathering for Internet users in Toronto.
“I just feel bad that I can’t help her out at the moment,” Samar said of his decision to post there. “I just wanted to raise awareness. At the time, it was newly opened and I wanted people to know about it and go try it.”
The post was a huge initial success. A Reddit user, who goes by “enfieldstudios”, posted a top-rated comment that not only offered advice; but even more publicity, as his comment landed on Reddit’s front page, getting even more people to see it.
“I didn’t expect it to land on the front page,” Samar said afterwards. “I was in shock.”
Reddit made enough of an impact that Zein and her family now instantly know what it means when someone walks into Burger Bass and mentions the social networking site. They know that a customer learned of them through Samar, helping from halfway around the world.
Reddit, when people get lucky such as Samar did, can be an amazing, high-impact, free publicity tool. If the Reddit community takes a liking to the original poster, as they did in Samar’s case, it may even be the gift that keeps on giving.
Toronto subreddit once again, this time through a post user “okaybudday” started. From his post, which included a favourable review, more users started to try the restaurant, and came away loving it.
Both Samar and “okaybudday” are frequent Reddit users who will use the site for anything and everything, including a participation in their online local community. With over 40,000 subscribers to the Toronto subreddit alone, Reddit may prove to be a valuable resource.
While posting to Reddit was a great start, it isn’t always enough.
Zein recognizes more people coming into Burger Bass from Reddit. She is even getting a few regulars now from the site. “They come, and they like the food, and they come back!” she said.
While Samar was able to help out from halfway around the world, it still is not quite enough just yet.
However, this is not to demean the contributions Reddit can have for a small, startup business. As a free marketing tool, sometimes, the Internet can provide that little push needed before tough times get better.