Q&A: GD Bro Burger Steps Up to Support Its Community
Just south of Los Angeles, Signal Hill is like most tight-knit communities throughout America. Life was fairly routine until March, when many food service professionals suddenly found themselves out of work — while front-line workers found themselves working around-the-clock.
As brick-and-mortar supermarkets sharply reduced their capacity and hours, health workers — like the many home-bound LA County residents — struggled to find reliable sources of prepped meals, as well as daily staples like bottled water, eggs, and cleaning necessities. Clearly, the existing infrastructure just wasn’t measuring up to the new reality.
That’s when Hue Nguyen stepped up for his community and took action. For Nguyen, owner of GD Bro Burger in Signal Hill, community support has been a core component of his business model for years. Over the last several weeks, he’s not only helped keep at-risk youth stay gainfully employed — he’s also organized donations to local nonprofits, and expanded his delivery service to bring curbside meal kit and online grocery deliveries to hard-working health caregivers — along with many Signal Hill and Long Beach families who are home-bound.
We caught up with Nguyen to find out more about how his daily routine has adapted to the new normal — and how he’s using digital technology to help improve quality-of-life for people in his community.
Hue, thanks so much for taking time out to talk with us. What kind of community initiatives are you involved in right now?
At the moment, we’re working with World Central Kitchen’s national program called Chefs for America, and statewide programs to put up GD Bro Burger as an emergency station. With kids out of school, they need meals, and we’ll be another liaison to deliver food to those kids. We’re also helping senior living facilities order groceries from us online, so people with higher health risks can be guaranteed a daily supply of healthy and essential foods without having to leave their homes. It’s not just our usual burgers and fries. We’re delivering essentials like milk, eggs, fruit, vegetables, meats, and canned goods.
On the employment side, we’ve partnered with Pacific Gateway, a youth opportunity center for at-risk youth, teaching them soft skills and life skills, as well as food handling skills. It’s actually something we’ve been involved in for years — but we’ve really stepped that up over the past few weeks. We’re making sure that our underserved youth who might not have any place else to go have a job to show up to every day, and a family of mentors to support and educate them.
I’m also working with other local business owners to provide weekly food donations to local nonprofits, hospitals and government agencies — particularly California Conservation Corps, which focuses on helping youth break the cycle of poverty while serving the environment. And, we’ve been putting up food service tents at a few of the big hospitals, donating food to health care workers, patients, and our underserved veterans.
How did you get involved in delivering food to hospitals?
That happened really organically. A lot of health care workers were ordering personal food deliveries from us — just burgers, sandwiches, that kind of thing — and that scaled up pretty quickly to large-scale orders from the hospitals themselves. So, I reached out to some of my fellow entrepreneurs, and to the California Conservation Corps, and said, ‘Hey, why don’t we just set pop-up stations at the hospitals and share comfort meals on a donation basis?’
A lot of big food franchises are out there providing free meals to hospitals — but not many are delivering meals and meal kit programs to the staff who work the graveyard shifts. That’s when a lot of hospital workers are limited in choices to find a solid meal. We proposed the idea to staff at various hospitals, and they were extremely grateful and appreciative that local businesses would come out and provide free meals at two o’clock in the morning.
So now we have our own staff who work into the wee hours, keeping our health care workers fed. We’re out there delivering meals when the majority of food businesses are closed — and that sends a message to the health care community: ‘We’re here around the clock for you. We’re 24/7, just like you are.’
What does your day-to-day look like right now — and how are you adapting to these ever-changing times?
I’ve always worn multiple hats every day, and it actually fuels me. From the moment I get up in the morning, I’m on the phone about potential catering opportunities, organizing meal kit inventory for service workers, and staying in communication with my business partner and my staff. We have a group chat, so we know who’s coming in for each shift, and can scale our workforce for higher-volume or lower-volume days.
In all this hustle, we’re actually working with teams locally and globally to find more ways to help. From bringing our delivery infrastructure in-house — where we can ensure our own safety standards — to working with a tech team in India to evolve our order management system, we’re able to add more resources for our community and put more at-risk youth and veterans to work.
Plus, I’m in charge of our social media — which means every day, I’m pushing out photos, announcements and special promotions on Facebook and Instagram with new collaboration from our digital marketing team at Targetable. It’s definitely a balancing act, keeping a business like this running as we expand throughout our community in so many new ways. I really view it as a great opportunity to give back to the people who’ve supported us so much over the years.
How can people at home help — not only GD Bro Burger, but also other small businesses who are stepping up to help?
The most helpful thing people can do is just get the word out about initiatives like this. Spread the message through word-of-mouth, through social media — anywhere and everywhere you can.
We have a hashtag, #CommunityOverCompetition — in other words, we’re all local small businesses, just trying to support our families, our staff, and our communities through these uncertain days. That hashtag isn’t just ours — it’s for every business that believes in collaborating and helping people in need right now. And, thanks to Adobe for helping to spread the word and supporting us so we can help feed our community.
Also, gift cards and ordering from restaurants directly are great. It gives businesses the immediate cash flow that they need to operate versus paying a third party delivery service excessive commissions and fees.
What do you want other small business owners to know right now? What advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs?
I really believe that every time of crisis presents opportunities — not to expand your margins, but to take action and put your values into practice. If you believe in humanity, then get out there and do something to help at-risk and underserved people in your community. If you believe in collaboration, then join forces with other business owners instead of trying to compete with them. When the dust settles, people will remember the entrepreneurs who did more than just try to stay afloat — who took the harder road and stepped up to take care for those in need.
How are digital tools helping you keep up with the pace of life these days? Has anything changed?
We quite literally couldn’t run most of our daily business functions without Adobe products right now. I use Adobe Sign every time we need to close a contract for a catering event — and our customers use it to sign for the curbside orders we drop off.
We’re also using Adobe Illustrator almost every day to update our menus and create graphic designs for flyers and promotional tools. Illustrator makes it easy to download those designs into a PDF, which ensures the look of each graphic stays consistent across email, Facebook, and Instagram.
The main thing that’s changed is that essentially all of our orders are handled digitally and remotely now. We were using Adobe Sign and Illustrator before, but now those tools come into play in just about every order we receive, and every contract we finalize. Adobe helps us do our jobs more efficiently so that we can empower our employees to help our customers who count on us at all hours of the day and night.
If you’d like to spread the word about GD Bro Burger’s support efforts — and connect with other business owners who share Hue’s vision — check out the #CommunityOverCompetition and #TheGreatAmericanTakeout on Facebook and Instagram. We’d love to hear inspiring stories from your community, too.