Tag Archives: B&G Tasty Foods

The End of a Tasty Era

June 13, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The fast-food industry has dwindled in quality over the past few decades. While the big players in the industry focused, and still focus, on cutting costs, Eddie Morin focused on keeping the “old-fashioned” fast-food business alive.

B&G Tasty Foods held a special place in Omaha’s restaurant lineup as an establishment that served quality food with a heavy dollop of nostalgia. While patrons found a variety of diner-esque choices, the restaurant’s specialty was loose meat sandwiches.

“It’s an old food. Everyone used to know what it was and [now] they’re kind of like ‘what is that?’” Morin said in an interview this spring.

A loose meat sandwich is similar to a burger in components and different in preparation. The beef is cooked in a loose batch instead of individual patties. The final product is finely ground beef, already cooked in sauce, pressed between two steamed buns.

Morin first started working at B&G Tasty Foods in 2001. In 2009 he was presented with the opportunity to buy it from the previous owner, and did. Morin fought to keep one of Omaha’s last loose meat sandwich shops running, complete with all the classic aesthetics.

“A lot of people think we came into existence a few years ago and [used] a designer or architect,” Morin said. “Really, it’s just kind of an evolution over 60 years.”

This may have been due to a creative atmosphere that developed over time. Though Morin isn’t an artist himself, he managed to keep creative spirits in his orbit. As the son of two graphic designers, he says that befriending and working with artists came naturally.

Kevin Donahue worked alongside Morin at B&G Tasty Foods before the restaurant switched ownership. He was a long-time employee who split his time between the kitchen and his music career.

He witnessed Morin grow from a coworker into a caring business owner.

“It’s really like a family,” Donahue said in April. “He takes time to select who’s going to work here. He makes sure that they’re going to fit in and be able to pull their weight.”

“You don’t have to be best friends with the people you’re working with, but you should kind of look forward to going in and seeing people,” Morin said.

Donahue said that Morin gathered a group of employees who were empathetic to the needs of one another—such as when Donahue would leave on tour with his band. Building a healthy and effective work culture was one of Morin’s achievements.

“It’s nice to be in an environment where you can laugh, have fun, and it doesn’t feel like you’re dragging your feet throughout the day,” Donahue continued.

Morin said he tried to consider his employee’s perspectives—even when he didn’t understand them. For example, he described the way that younger employees would come to him with frequent situations that interfered with work. Morin said that as an adult the problems seemed insignificant, but he recognized that his younger employees didn’t see it that way.

“Everything is relative,” Morin said. “Some of them haven’t experienced very many hardships, so a little, tiny thing throws them for a loop. I think showing that you’re concerned and will make arrangements really is the key to keeping people around.”

Unfortunately, the food service industry has not been kind to those preserving a quick, made-from-scratch meal. Morin announced the closure of B&G Tasty Foods in April. Their last day was Memorial Day, May 27.

B&G faced insurmountable challenges. One battle Morin had was the illusion surrounding a loose meat sandwich’s appearance. Customers expected it to be cheaper than the burger—which B&G Tasty Foods delivered on—but it actually cost slightly more in labor and ingredients to produce.

Sales tripled during the decade under Morin’s leadership. However, that was not enough to combat increasing operating costs.

“Just because we have lots and lots of customers and people who love us doesn’t necessarily mean we’re making money,” Morin said.

The B&G Tasty Foods employees have formed plans to keep their connection alive by meeting up a few times throughout the year to carry on their holiday party traditions.

“I’ve never been closer and happier with a group of people in my life than the group of people who I’ve had working with me these last 10 years,” Morin said. “Very close behind them is our wonderful customers. There are so many of them I’m going to miss.”

This article was printed in the July/August 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Lowbrow Pop Culture Maven

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If it wasn’t for Bugs Bunny, Ren and Stimpy, or Johnny Bravo, we may never have gotten to know Dan Crane, artist extraordinaire. One of Omaha’s rising contemporary creators, Crane credits his formative years watching Cartoon Network as much as his degree in printmaking from the Kansas City Art Institute for his unique visual perspective.

“That pre-internet, pop culture aesthetic that animators were doing at the time was so particular. It never really left me,” Crane says.

Dan-Crane-1One look at his work and that’s astoundingly clear. A hybrid of commercial and fine art, his pieces range from fartsy to artsy: one of his printed t-shirts displays a butt in mid-squat, while large abstract paintings fill his studio with inviting neon-hues.

Equal parts kid-at-heart and all-grownup, Crane has built an impressive professional portfolio. He has lent his eye-popping visual perspective to the Omaha Creative Institute, and Scout Dry Goods & Trade, and has helped to establish B&G Tasty Foods’ creative brand.

“We try hard to have interesting and unique signage at B&G, and Dan has really helped with that immensely,” says Eddie Morin, restaurant owner. “The most important work he has done for us is designing our new mascots, Louis Meat and Louise Frenchee. We’re using those guys all over the place now.”

Crane recently completed a gig for Mula where he had been commissioned to design, and print t-shirts. The finished shirts feature a monster holding a basketball and a taco with peace signs for eyes. The characters might seem unnatural for a Mexican kitchen and tequileria, but they are representative of Crane’s kooky and bold signature style.

Dan-Crane-2When Crane’s not cooking up art for local eateries, he spends time at the Union for Contemporary Art. As a previous fellowship recipient, he has a small temporary studio at the Union. During his fellowship, which lasted from November 2015 through April 2016, he helped North Omaha school kids transfer their small drawings onto much larger pieces of plywood. The finished products were installed in Habitat for Humanity yards as pop-up public art.

“The Union is all about spreading positive social change through art,” Crane says. “Can I just say that I am so f***ing grateful for them?”

Yes, Crane’s language is commonly peppered with swear words. He’s also got a penchant for Atlanta trap music and once lived in an 1,800-square-foot Blackstone District storefront that was notorious for all-night raves. Nothing Crane does is by the book. And he’s just fine with that.

“The whole art with a capital ‘A’ thing really bugs me,” Crane says. “I’m not motivated to do something unless it’s super-approachable and can be related to on a real level.”

Crane often slips into episodes of nostalgia. Whether he is recalling childhood summers spent copying doodles inside libraries or the two weeks he served pad thai from a truck at Coachella (so he could quit the food industry and focus on art), he’s all about the journey. Not the destination.

“I still feel like I’m in my infancy stage as an artist,” Crane says. “I’m loving what I’m doing now and taking it one day, one project at a time.”

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