Patty Perseverance: How An Entrepreneur Built A Burger Sensation During COVID And Now Generates More Than $700,000 Per Year

Aly Lalani, founder of Build My Burgers, always felt that the conventional desk job and steady paycheck wasn’t his calling. Seeking a more challenging and unpredictable path, the 38-year-old, with 16 years of experience in the restaurant industry, opened Build My Burgers in Orlando, Florida, in 2021. 

The inspiration behind Lalani’s foray into the burger business comes from a simple love of burgers. As he and his wife, Zahra, self-proclaimed food enthusiasts, contemplated opening a franchise, affordability became a stumbling block. Undeterred, they decided to create their own brand, giving birth to Build My Burgers in Orlando.

The journey from Lalani’s initial idea in 2018 to the restaurant’s launch in 2021 met unexpected challenges. The entrepreneur faced personal hardships, including the loss of his father and financial constraints during the COVID-19 pandemic, which led him to postpone the grand opening from April 2020 to January 2021.

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During the pandemic, Lalani opted to live off his wife’s salary to weather the financial storm, Lalani continued working full time on the restaurant without knowing its opening date. As the startup budget ballooned from $200,000 to $400,000, Lalani navigated the challenge by using personal savings, accumulating credit card debt and unsecured loans and securing financial support from the landlord.

Lalani’s venture employs an open design concept that enables diners to see their meals prepared fresh, a contrast to the typical premade fast-food chain experience. The restaurant attracts approximately 400 customers daily who enjoy the quality and freshness. 

Beginning in 2018, the Lalani duo meticulously designed the restaurant’s logo, interior and color scheme, presenting it as a thriving chain from the outset. Despite challenges, including a failed deal with an existing burger chain, they forged ahead and brought their vision to life.

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The restaurant’s revenue trajectory tells a compelling story. In its inaugural year, Build My Burgers generated $584,000, a figure that surged to $739,000 the following year, enabling Lalani to draw an $84,000 salary for himself.

Despite grief over his father’s death in December 2019, Lalani drew strength from memories of his father and the impending arrival of his own child. The challenges fueled his motivation, and he remained positive, driven by the vision of bringing his dream to fruition.

Build My Burgers opted for a low-key opening without a grand ceremony. Lalani simply turned on the “Open” sign, establishing a connection with the local community through special deals and discounts for various groups. In 2022, Zahra Lalani joined as a co-owner, managing marketing and accounting, while her husband continued to invest 50 hours per week in restaurant operations and social media.

Looking ahead, Lalani envisions turning Build My Burgers into a franchise, with goals of establishing 51 locations across the U.S. within the next five years. His roadmap includes setting a minimum investment price that is close to his original budget and ensuring careful expansion that will not risk overextending the brand. 

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