If you ever have a chance to visit the small, tight-knit community of La Crête in northern Alberta, make it a priority to try the onion ring burger at The Burger Shack
The family-owned town local is operated by Jason Martens and features a menu that revolves around, you guessed it, incredible, homemade burgers. Always bustling with regulars from the town, The Burger Shack is busiest on weekends when people from the surrounding area come to town to shop and the forestry workers come home. Guests rave about their recipes, their portions, their service and their gravy. The most popular burgers are the bacon cheeseburger, the Canadian and the onion ring burger with house sauce, which happens to be Martens’ personal favourite. “Most of our burgers were developed by our head cook—she likes to experiment,” he says. “In the last couple of years, we’ve moved towards dine-in and renovated our whole restaurant. We put in new lights, it’s way dimmer in there with better atmosphere. We added more pastas and have steak and rib night. Our customers love it.”
Recalling the restaurant’s humble beginning in Fort Vermilion (about 20 minutes away), Martens laughs. “My sister had a small bakery there, and we saw a small, drive-through place across the road. There was no dine-in. It was small—literally a shack. That’s why it was called The Burger Shack, I guess. The owners were retiring and we decided to purchase it and kept the name.” Eventually, they sold the original location and moved the business to La Crête opening a larger, 3,500 square foot restaurant with dine-in to see them through the slower winter months.
Martens admits that, while the restaurant did have its share of shut-downs during the pandemic, it has not experienced the last few years with the same intensity as restaurants in southern, high-density areas. “We shut down a couple times here and there, but we mostly stayed open with reduced seating. But a lot of the COVID stuff just didn’t really hit us. We’re kind of isolated—we’re seven hours north of Edmonton.”
What has affected The Burger Shack is inflation. Restaurants located far from major food distribution centres already pay more for their ingredients due to additional transportation costs, and universal price increases have further strained margins. “You just don’t know what to do. You can’t just always raise the prices because customers are going to complain, but they all go to the grocery store, and they see the same thing there. So, they kind of know.”
A Groupex member for two years, Martens heard about the opportunity to buy through Groupex from his Pepsico rep. “I was kind of skeptical,” he admits. “I sent an email and Bonnie, our Groupex rep called me and basically told me to let her take care of it. She did everything for me.”
Martens still orders directly from his suppliers, but because he’s a member, he is entitled to rebates that reflect the Groupex account rate. Every month he receives a cheque for the difference. “We didn’t really have to change anything. Bonnie signed us up for everything that we wanted, and then we basically just went on ordering as we always do. You just get a cheque at the end of the month and, if you have any questions, you can always email or call her and she’s always really helpful. We get a statement at the end of the month that shows the rebate amount for each item we ordered.” “I mean, you won’t get rich off it,” he laughs. “But every bit helps right now.”
Established in 1984 by a small group of independent restaurants, today, Groupex is the largest foodservice account in Canada with some of the leading branded suppliers such as Pepsico, Diversey, Canada Bread and Gordon Food Service. Groupex uses the buying power of its national membership base to negotiate savings on essential restaurant supplies and services. Members save thousands of dollars on beverages, food, operational and financial programs.
Learn more at: www.groupex.com