Emerging Concepts | December 2013 | By Judy Kneiszel

Ones to Watch: Teddy’s Bigger Burgers

Hawaii-based burger joint brings made-to-order creations to the mainland.

Most U.S. mainland residents have never been to a Teddy’s Bigger Burgers; those who have probably visited while on vacation. But that may soon change, as the Hawaii-based burger joint now has two mainland units and is poised for additional growth.

After the first Teddy’s opened in Honolulu in 1998, the brand grew slowly, adding two more stores in Hawaii by the end of 2003. Teddy’s started franchising in 2005 and now has five franchised stores—two in Hawaii and one each in Washington State, Iowa, and Japan.

“We’ve only got one shot to do this,” says Ted Tsakiris, cofounder and co-CEO of Teddy’s Bigger Burgers. “We didn’t want to grow too fast and not be able to handle the expansion. We had to get our operating procedures down, and we needed to be prepared for growth. We want to make each franchisee happy, and the way to do that is to build the brand slowly and surely. I would rather have 200 super happy franchisees than 2,000 who are constantly requiring attention because we’re not servicing them right. That’s why it took so long.”

Tsakiris says Teddy’s brought something new to Hawaii when the first location opened. “We opened before the gourmet burger segment took hold in Hawaii,” he says. “We really pioneered it.”

Teddy's Bigger Burgers

Founders & CEOs Ted Tsakiris and Rich Stula

HQ: Honolulu, Hawaii

Year Started: 1998

Annual Sales: $1.6 million per location

Total Units: 12

Franchise units: 5


While the business might have been cutting edge as far as burgers go, Teddy’s does things the old-school way. “We cook everything to order, using fresh, hand-pattied ground chuck with nothing added,” Tsakiris says.

Teddy’s burgers are served on a potato bun and are topped with claussen pickle slices and a proprietary sauce that, Tsakiris says, “isn’t Thousand Island dressing like so many other secret sauces.”

The menu also features Extra Thick Shakes made with five scoops of full-fat ice cream for $5.49. Side choices include french fries, tots, and beer-battered onion rings. Tsakiris says the menu was mainly focused on beef burgers in the beginning, but now includes a turkey burger, grilled or crispy chicken, veggie burger, fish sandwich, and pastrami sandwich, as well as a create-your-own salad option and a Caesar salad.

“The menu has grown only when quality items presented themselves,” Tsakiris says. “We’ve always made decisions about Teddy’s from our bellies. I’ve always asked myself, ‘If I had a favorite burger place, what would it be like?’”

That burger place would apparently be bright, with tables and chairs in bold primary colors, black-and-white-tiled walls, and a 1950s theme. No matter what the store looks like, though, operating a restaurant in Hawaii is difficult, Tsakiris says.

“The cost of doing business here is challenging,” he says. “But if you are good, you are busy.”

He says that as the concept grew and buying power increased, Teddy’s looked to its suppliers for better pricing rather than raising prices or changing ingredients.

“In the beginning, we were not making any money,” Tsakiris says. “We made the slimmest margin out of the gate in order to show people what a good burger was and to change the game. I said we’d make it off of our volume some day. You couldn’t operate a one-off Teddy’s and be at our price point.”

The average per-person ticket for Teddy’s Bigger Burgers is $9–$10 at all units.

“There’s barely a price difference,” Tsakiris says. “We are so aggressive in Hawaii and have so much buying power, we are able to keep prices down. If we had 200 stores on the mainland, it would be cheaper, and it will be as we grow. But as it stands right now, we’re able to be about the same price as in Hawaii.”

The best-seller at Teddy’s is the No. 2 Big Combo, which includes a 7-ounce Original Bigger Burger, french fries, and a drink. It’s priced at $9.99. All burgers come with Super Sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles, unless otherwise requested. And requests are not a problem, as Teddy’s offers a list of additional toppings—from common choices like cheese and grilled onions to uncommon picks like peanut butter, pastrami, and jalapeños. Being a Hawaiian concept, Teddy’s also offers grilled pineapple as an additional topping and includes it on at least one of the specialty burgers. The specialty burger menu includes seven original creations, and one specialty burger or sometimes a new creation is featured each month as the Burger of the Month.

Teddy’s did a one-year experiment with an express model, in which it pared down the menu and had the timing down to three minutes. The express model closed when the lease on its downtown Honolulu real estate ran out, but Tsakiris says it worked well and is ready to roll out again in the future.

The prototype for a standard Teddy’s Bigger Burgers unit averages 1,800–2,000 square feet on the mainland, but is slightly smaller in Hawaii, where outdoor seating can be used year-round.

“We need a larger under-roof area in most of the mainland, but we don’t want to build big Taj Mahal restaurants,” Tsakiris says. “We want to keep costs minimal. The leaner the better.”


I have had their burgers. Really flavorful. Also their staff, eventhough mostly high school kids, offer excelent customer service...The burger are juicy and messy...the staff gives out wetnaps.

I Tried the one near Seattle - Best Burger ever! Wow!Can't wait to go back!

Dear QSR Magazine, Thank you for the wonderful article. There are some misquotes, but overall, very good. We REALLY appreciate QSR recognizing Teddy's Bigger Burgers. We LOVE BURGERS. One Burger, One Customer, One Experience! Woot Woot!

You should try The Front Porch in Panama City Beach. FL. they have the best Burger and Fresh.....

MMM Love a good Burger Mike. I will most certainly try them.

Are you goinig to open any stores on Virginia ?

I used to eat at Teddy's Bigger Burgers in Kailua all the time. Ate in. Took out. brought friends with me! - I was in heaven. Best burgers in the world... yet, one other thing I love there are the Peanut Butter Milkshakes. Oh my gosh!!! - I have now eaten at the TBB's in Woodinville. It was the same... and simply amazing. My sister works in Bothell... I told her to get ready to start enjoying Teddy's more regularly! Thanks for this great article. I was there in Honolulu when the first one opened in 1998... I may start having to travel more to check out each new Teddy's as it opens. Thanks for the consistently great good.

THANK YOU CRIMINY! You experienced Teddys back in 98'?? Base of Diomond Head on Monsarrat Avenue right? Really appreciate your wonderful comments. We love our milkshakes too. I mean, 5 scoops of pure gourmet ice cream, milk and a lot of blending. Thanks again! Ted

We want a Teddy;s Bigger Burgers @ Davis Street Market in the Bishop Arts District of Dallas, TX...we LOVE a great burger!

I went to Teddy's in Woodinville, WA and my life has been better ever since. The burgers are pricier than say, 5 Guys, but you get what you pay for. Teddy's is on a whole other level to any other QSR burger joint I've been to, easily my favorite. I love the sauce and the potato buns! Really excited for the Bothell store since its in food-still-warm to-go-driving-distance. I have made a lot of my friends go to the Woodinville store and almost all have been very impressed.Ted, I like that you are responding to comments here. May I ask if you plan on having your stores start sourcing their meat from local / sustainable / organic / etc farms if it isnt already? I'd happily pay for an optional more expensive burger if it meant it was supporting that kind of farming/restuarant. You guys rock!

Bill Cass!!! Im humbled from your glowing review. We are so happy you recognize that what we are serving and how we get there from here is very different from other QSRs. We really do things the right way.pure, unadulterated and simple. We don't mess with the meat! It's all chuck all the time with no injected flavor enhancers, soy or any preservatives whatsoever. Re: Organic / local / sustainable beef: It's currently cost prohibitive to us and most of our customers. We are 16 years into developing and perfecting our brand, building and growing with our suppliers. We are just getting started so please stick with Teddy's through our growth and we will continue to work hard in your spirit and try our hardest to get you what you desire. When the time is right for Teddy's to offer this as an option, rest assured we will. We are just not there at the moment as it will be very difficult and costly to contract out with small local vendors that will incorporate our proprietary grinding methods, machinery for processing and quality standards that we have developed over our 16 year period. We will need these standards to be implemented across the entire manufacturing and supply chain which is almost impossible going smaller, going local and going organic. We getting there Bill! Give us some time. I will be opening up a New Teddys in Greenlake February 1 so come on down and let's chat! Would love to meet you. Hit me up on Facebook! Working Hard For YouTed TsakirisTeddys Bigger Burgers

Any chance you have a franchisee for the Kansas City Metropolitan area? I believe you would be well received in the Heartland.

Dear Marty, We don't have one In Kansas City area. I believe you are correct. :~)

Teddy's Bigger Burgers would do great in Erie, Colorado.

Sorry So LateJust returned from a store opening In Seattle! Paula, I agree, Colorado is on the radar!

we used to live in Hawaii Kai and ate at teddy's often! unfortunately we moved to Oregon and still miss those delicious burgers and spicy fries... any Oregon locations on the horizon?!?! i google teddy's burgers in Oregon at least once a week.

I stopped going to Teddy's when it became more expensive than outback... And they wait on you...

Comparable to 5 Guys burgers. Love the Teriyaki burger. Any chance a Teddy's finding a place in Idaho?

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