Meet Mel Zhou, the Founder and Brains of Boy n Burger

Meet Mel Zhou, the Founder and Brains of Wan Chai's Boy n Burger

Chinese-born Australian-raised Mel Zhou treasures food. The cheap, greasy, delectable burger that can fit on any international plate is near to her heart with her Australian childhood and the opening of her first restaurant in Hong Kong, Boy n Burger.

Wan Chai’s Boy n Burger opened in August 2021 to a food scene in Hong Kong hungry for a fast-casual burger diner that prioritises fresh ingredients, quality burgers, and affordable prices that start at as low as HK$28.

Mel Zhou spoke to The Beat Asia about her drive to introduce Hong Kong to a meat patty that doesn’t skip on taste nor price, and her inspirations for creating Boy n Burger.

Tell me more about your career and experience prior to creating Boy n Burger, Mel.

[Prior to Boy n Burger in Hong Kong], my journey [in] creative design and brand curation started with my great interest in branding and marketing. That’s why I decided to complete a double degree in Commerce and Liberal studies (arts) at the University of Sydney.

Back then, I also gained a scholarship at the Whitehouse Institute of Design, which later inspired me to work at Diane von Furstenberg and gain more experience as a freelancer. I loved building new brand identities from scratch, with some of my favourite projects being with Marcs, Napoleon Perdis or Christian Louboutin.

How was your experience waitressing in Sydney? Did you want to emulate the recipes and Australian restaurant vibe in Boy n Burger?

Being raised in Sydney, I was lucky enough to taste the quintessential array of Australia’s best-loved family meals – burgers, hot dogs and fish and chips, all of which I hold close to heart. My fondest childhood memories are of eating burgers on the beach with family and friends, or at the regular weekend barbeques my father would host.

So, when I grew older, it also felt natural to work in the F&B and hospitality industry. As a teenager, I began my work experience as a waitress in a busy Australian restaurant in Rozelle, Sydney.

This first-hand experience provided me with the knowledge and confidence to start my own restaurant, a decade down the road. It was my dream to emulate these classic Australian recipes and fun, family-centric vibes in my first restaurant, Boy’N’Cow, [in Bali, Indonesia] and later also at Boy n Burger [in Wan Chai, Hong Kong].

Why did you open Boy n Burger?

My goal as a restaurateur who was raised in Australia but has Asian roots, is to create innovative concepts through unique East-meets-West dining experiences – warm space, quality food, happiness, laughter and family. With this mission, I opened Boy n Burger in Hong Kong, a back-to-basics family-first concept that focuses on quality excellence, value, and fun.

What were your inspirations for the restaurant?

In 2018, I was pregnant with my first son who was the key drive and inspiration behind Boy n Burger. In fact, the mascot of "Bobby" boy is a cartoon illustration of my son. All I craved during the pregnancy were burgers and pickles.

I convinced my husband to embark on a burger adventure with me and check out all burger restaurants around the area. Of all the burger joints we tried, there was one I was fixated with, and it wasn’t because of the quality of the burger, but a father and son I encountered at the shopfront. I witnessed the little boy outside the shop, clinging onto his father asking if they could eat there.

My heart broke when the father replied that it was beyond their affordability. There was a gap in the market. This was the very moment that inspired me to create the concept of Boy n Burger and the coexistence of quality, service, and affordability. Why shouldn’t all of those things be available to everyone in one place?

How are you redefining fast-casual dining in Hong Kong?

Our burgers at Boy n Burger are genuinely for everyone, with community being at the heart of our concept. It has always been our core mission to bring Hong Kong truly affordable quality meals that start at HK$28 for our signature burgers.

We are also committed to corporate social responsibility [and] waste reduction, as well as sustainable and traceable sourcing of produce. Our vegetables are all sourced from local suppliers.

Our patties are made of antibiotic-free, 20-day salt moss-aged grass and wild cereal grain-fed beef, raised on small family-run farms in the West Country. Our fish is MSC blue label-certified, and all our larger suppliers use international track and trace systems.

What was your experience running Boy’N’Cow in Bali?

With the opening of Boy’N’Cow in 2017, my goal was to fuse my culinary creativity with my love for entertainment and adventure. The focus was on fun dining, not fine dining. Boy’N’Cow is a premium, casual, full-service steakhouse with industrial interiors inspired by the prohibition era.

It has gained great success in Bali, even during the pandemic, as we are heavily focused on quality of service, the sense of community and culture with our known sharing plates to leave memorable everlasting experiences.

What is the future for you, Boy n Burger, and your F&B ventures in the city?

As for the future of Boy n Burger, we are in the process of securing another one or two locations this year, which will set the path for further expansion for multiple locations to come. We are not a one-shop brand; we are focused on expanding across all demographics through our affordability, cleanliness, and quality of service and produce.

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