The Salty Rooster
words by: tara wesson // photography by: salty rooster
We all know and love the iconic Queensie burger institution, Salty Rooster. COVERED. has the story behind the burger, speaking to owner Jimmy Sagiotis.
Salty Rooster started in Narrabeen back in ‘05. Close to the lakes, it got its name from the salt of the lakes and the chicken, as in rooster, that it was selling. Because believe it or not, Salty Rooster was originally a chicken shop.
To begin with, there were only six burgers; the Mexican, the Greek, the Aussie, Italian, the Narrabeen and the Brazilian; and it was the burgers that just took off.
“They were named after countries because I could relate to cultures. Every one of us that moves into a new area, we just don’t fit in for a while. Especially Manly, Queensie side, there’s a lot of tourists so I thought I would pick the ones from their country, relating to their mum’s cooking or whatever it might be,” Jimmy explains.
“It makes us laugh actually. The Brazilians buy the Brazilian burger, if you get any Mexicans, they buy the Mexican, the Greek ones will say ‘oh well, I’ll buy the Greek one’, but it works.”
They were just selling burgers, and it was then that Jimmy made the decision to turn the entire business into a burger shop, which he said was a massive transition.
Four years later, the Queenscliff location opened and Jimmy and his wife were running both at the same time. A year after that, Jimmy launched franchising, but his first son was born soon after. He and his wife had to discuss how long they were going to keep running at full throttle with their businesses, as the burger shops weren’t their only enterprise: they eventually decided they would keep the two Salty Rooster stores.
But a year and a half ago, Jimmy’s wife passed away and he had to downsize. He had two little boys - Hudson, now seven, and Harrison, now eight - and could only keep the Queensie store that we know and love today.
“I nearly sold out. You’ve got such a busy business, you’re trying to grieve at the same time, you’ve got two boys growing up, you’re a businessman, a father, a mother as well basically, I nearly let go.
But what kept me there was the passion for this thing. I’ve always wanted to get this everywhere. I’ve always wanted people to taste the food.”
Jimmy says he’s changed from the person he was to the person he’s become. At the moment, he’s getting back on his feet, starting to market Salty Rooster a lot more and returning to the way he was “once upon a time”.
Salty Rooster, no doubt, is an often chaotic hub of hungry kids and burger lovers. While there’s no seating and more of a ‘quick service restaurant’ style, make no mistake; no quality is lost despite the lightning speed of their service.
While they’ll whip up a burger in under five minutes, at their busiest times they’re making a whopping 450 burgers per hour, in two hours. Do the math, folks. That’s a lot of burgers.
“My passion is just the expression of the kids when they come in, and they taste it and come back and say, you know, ‘the chips were amazing, I’ve never had anything like that.’
And then you get a 65 year old man who’s been around, he’s worked all his life, he’s been to different countries and he tells me, ‘I’ve never had anything like that before.’”
The iconic Salty Rooster is forever busy, and Jimmy says it’s still a learning process. The consumer changes, foodie trends sweep in and dietary needs come into play. Through it all, the clincher is always quality.
If you love Salty Rooster as much as we do, you’ll be relieved to know you’ll have your burger fix for at least another sixty odd years, with Jimmy’s kids keen to join in on the fun - just once they’re old enough. •
73 Collingwood St, Manly | www.saltyrooster.com.au | (02) 9977 7373