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The rise of Burgerology, a Long Island company that’s about to go national

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They weren’t trying to be Instagram famous.

Bellmore native Georgia Galatoulas — who knew nothing about social media — only wanted to help with a girl’s 15th birthday party at the family’s Massapequa restaurant: New York Burger Bar, which opened in 2015.

“I just wanted to make the mother happy and the girls happy,” Georgia said.

She thought crazy milkshakes would make for the perfect party theme. So Georgia went crazy at the store, loading up her car with cotton candy, sprinkles, gum balls and much more — all for milkshake decor, so to speak.

Then the former Starbucks barista got to work in the kitchen.

Her eye-popping pink milkshake creations were such a huge hit with the teens, that when the family opened its first Burgerology location in Rockville Centre in 2017, these very camera-ready shakes were immediately part of the plan.

Those creative milkshakes (think s’mores and rainbow cookies) caught the immediate attention of young people — and their phones. Photos of Burgerology shakes were soon taking over New Yorkers’ social media feeds. Such as this one from 2017:

The mainstream media took notice.

And there hasn’t been a dull moment for the Galatoulas family since Business Insider headed to Rockville Centre for a video that went nationally viral and drove lines of people to Burgerology on Merrick Road — coming not just from Long Island but other states as well.

They had lines down the block after that Insider video was published.

“Then every broker on Long Island was calling us” to open more Burgerology locations, said Eddie Galatoulas, the family patriarch and Georgia’s husband, who’s been in the hospitality business since he was a kid.

That same year, in 2017, Burgerology opened a second location in Huntington, which was packed from jump and never slowed down. Burgerology rode that wave into Astoria, then Patchogue, midtown Manhattan at the Crown Plaza Hotel, Stony Brook, Farmingdale and UBS Arena, where Burgerology is now the official burger of the arena and the New York Islanders.

But the roots of this burgeoning burger business started in New York City, back in the day.

From the streets

Eddie Galatoulas’s success story starts in the streets, literally.

It was 1987, the summer before college for him, when Eddie landed a summer job working in a coffee and donut cart in Manhattan. Most kids might have been miserable. Not Eddie.

Fast forward a couple months. He didn’t exactly go to school that fall as planned, opting instead for night classes as he began to grow his own business. By the time he was 22 years old — also the age he met his future wife, Georgia, who then helped as well — he owned five coffee and donut carts. Eddie would always work at one cart; his employees would handle the others.

“I just fell in love with it,” he recalled. “I just loved talking to the people and loved the city in general. I got to meet a lot of great people. And known people, Nicholas Cage, Sharon Stone. And I always had cash in my pocket. [The carts] were constantly busy and it was a great lead-in to where I am today, with meeting and dealing with all different kinds of people.”

He later traded in his NYC carts and started operating a fleet of lunch trucks on Long Island, another business he ran for well over a decade before happening upon an opportunity to open the instantly popular New York Burger Bar in Massapequa with a partner and friend, as well as Georgia.

But he credits his early love and prowess within the industry to his dad, who owned coffee shops in Woodside, Queens, and then the Upper East Side. Eddie was always around to help.

Crisis turns into opportunity

Eddie Galatoulas overseeing the rebuild after the Sept. 8, 2016, fire at New York Burger Bar. (courtesy)

“It was the worst day we could have ever imagined,” said John Galatoulas, Eddie and Georgia’s son. “This was our only restaurant. I was in the kitchen with my dad and mom in the front. My sister [Maria] was the host. We were opening, closing. We had a hand in every aspect of the demo, the design.”

They had been riding high, too. Business was buzzing and Burger Bar had won Newsday’s islandwide Burger Smackdown contest just a year after opening.

And just like that, it was all lost when a nighttime fire broke out in New York Burger Bar’s basement on Sept. 8, 2016.

“The upstairs was ruined, smoked out,” said Eddie. “The place was completely destroyed.”

The contractors and inspectors estimated it would take about six months to reopen.

But the Galatoulas family wasn’t about to sit around all that time. So they zeroed in on a location for themselves, where the short-lived Smokin’ Rib had operated at 226 Merrick Road in Rockville Centre.

“We took over in Rockville Centre,” John said. “Everyone said, ‘You’re crazy. Nothing works there.'”

To be sure, things weren’t exactly busy at first. That was, until Business Insider came calling.

The video would be free, Insider assured, because this was editorial content.

“The woman was telling us it’s going to be huge; you have no idea,” Eddie recalled. “The day after it posted, I kid you not, we opened up the store at 11 a.m. but at 9 a.m. there was a line around the block.”

“People from Connecticut,” Maria said. “Philly, New Jersey. We went through tubs of ice cream. Once that instagram craze hit, it was more successful than New York Burger Bar.  We finally had good synergy.”

What’s next?

Eddie, Georgia, Maria and John Galatoulas at UBS Arena in Elmont, where Burgerology is now the official burger of the arena and the New York Islanders. (courtesy photo)

New York Burger Bar in Massapequa closed on Dec. 23 for renovations, and the Galatoulas family has taken over with plans to reopen the spot as a Burgerology in March, marking its eighth location.

But that’s not all.

Burgerology Holdings, the company’s official name, has hired a new president in Bill Brayer, the former COO of Live! Hospitality & Entertainment, which anyone who’s visited Kansas City is familiar with the Kansas City Live! entertainment district, as well as many others districts.

And the company has big plans to expand across the East, and possibly Midwest.

To that end, a brand-new menu is currently being rolled out across all seven locations, starting with Midtown and Patchogue, with rave reviews coming in.

“We have taken a complete culinary approach on this,” Maria said. “This will be much more of an elevated experience. With something for everybody, vegan, vegetarian, healthy, gluten-free.”

“When we say scratch kitchen, this is a scratch kitchen,” John emphasized. “Every sauce, we make. Everything is done in-house, the salads, share-ables and sides. The only thing we’re not doing on-premises is baking bread.”

Burgerology will also be shutting down its Patchogue location in August for a short time.

Since Patchogue has emerged as a sort of 2005 Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the youth movement quickly took over at Burgerolgoy, with a club atmosphere evolving as the owners figured things out.

The food fell second to the alcohol. But that will be ending soon.

They’ll be renovating and re-opening as a more family friendly restaurant later in 2024, which they also feel is much more on-brand for Burgerology, as they have no interest in being a nightclub.

“We want to reposition ourselves to transform our Patchogue location to a true neighborhood spot,” Eddie said. “Though we’ll still have fun events and entertainment for people of all ages, we want people to be kicking back and relaxing without the intensity of the nightclub experience.”

“We’re still going to have the bar scene on Saturday nights, with a DJ (and DJ-spun Sunday brunches), but the rest of the week we’re really going to hone in on what Burgerology really is. We want to bring that to Patchogue.”

Then, the rest of the country.

Top: Eddie, Georgia, Maria and John Galatoulas at the corporate headquarters of Burgology Holdings in Bellmore. Also pictured is their mini goldendoodle, Winnie. The family has big plans for a U.S. expansion. (Credit Michael White)

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