Bernie’s Burger Bus, which helped launch Houston’s food truck trend nearly a decade ago, will be closing May 31.
Owner Justin Turner announced the closure in an email, saying that Covid-19, food delivery fees and the rising price of meat all contributed to the restaurant’s downfall. Turner started slinging creative burgers and loaded fries out of a single yellow school bus in 2010 before growing the business to a fleet of busses, winning national recognition along the way. Eventually, the chain expanded to include four dine-in restaurants throughout the Houston area, with locations in the Heights, Bellaire, and Missouri City and Katy.
Turner pointed to Bernie’s most recent brick-and-mortar location in Missouri City as one of his missteps, calling his decision not to take out a loan to build it a “fatal move.” “If we’d taken out a loan and kept that money in the bank, we could have survived,” he wrote. “Working capital can and does make the difference between who will survive times like this and who won’t—Bernie’s Burger Bus is proof of that.”
Bernie’s is the latest Houston restaurant to close. Many have pointed to the coronavirus and ensuing economic shutdown as contributing factors. Turner said taking care of his remaining staff was his biggest priority. “With accumulating debt, decreased sales, and the rising cost of doing business, we were starting to move into the danger zone,” he said. “I was not going to be able to afford the remaining 10 of 114 staff I had left, and paying my team was more important to me than anything else.”
For now, Turner is calling the closure “indefinite,” saying he’s going to take some time off to rest and spend with family before evaluating his next steps. “I’m fortunate to have options,” he said, “and no matter where I go, my remaining staff will be by my side.”
The Bernie’s team will be hosting a farewell party May 31 at the restaurant’s flagship location at 5407 Bellaire Boulevard.