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.