Q-and-A with Ferso Ismail, founder of Burger Lodge

Ferso Ismail stands outside of his restaurant, Burger Lodge. Photo by Kate Marinkovich.

Ferso Ismail stands outside of his restaurant, Burger Lodge. Photo by Kate Marinkovich.

If you live on the Rose Hill campus, chances are good that you’ve heard of Burger Lodge. Within months, this new off-campus eatery has become well-known to Fordham students.

Read on to find out how Burger Lodge founder Ferso Ismail, BS ’18, runs the business while studying abroad, what his favorite menu items are, and more.

Q: When did you decide to start Burger Lodge, and what inspired the idea?

A: I decided to open Burger Lodge at the end of freshman year, right after doing The Ground Floor [a course that challenges students to propose a new business venture]. I grew up in this Bronx area, and eating out has always meant Italian cuisine, thanks to Arthur Avenue. Then it hit me: there are so many Fordham students from across the United States, so let’s bring some classic American culture into the area. I wanted to bring the student community together.

Q: Once you had the idea, what was the actual execution process like?

A: The first step was to establish a corporation and do the business filing, which includes finding the location. Once I had the location, I invested my own money into transforming the place. I went with [the name] Burger Lodge because I wanted students to have a sense of comfort, a homey feel.

My father has experience in the restaurant business and I knew it would be difficult for me to be in two places at once, because I have classes, so I appointed him as operations manager. We devised the menu together. The main priority was to provide fresh, quality food that would make [customers] come back again.

Q: When did Burger Lodge officially open? What was opening day like for you?

A: Burger Lodge had a soft opening in the third week of February 2016. The grand opening was on April 1, 2016, and it was absolutely incredible. I had students coming in nonstop the entire day. Since then, Burger Lodge has become a staple in the Fordham University community.

Q: You’re currently studying abroad. How do you balance running a business and being a full-time student, especially considering you’re located across the Atlantic Ocean?

A: While I’m studying in London for the semester, I trust my team to take care of the restaurant. Of course, I have ways of keeping track of everything in New York, as I still manage all finances and marketing.

Q: How has your Fordham education helped your business efforts?

A: My Fordham education is definitely helping me keep track of the financial statements. It’s also been a big help in my marketing strategy. I had [Assistant Professor Marina] Carnevale as a marketing professor, who was great. It’s probably why my marketing has been so successful.

Q: What is your advice to young entrepreneurs who are interested in starting their own businesses?

A: Make sure you find something you are passionate about, and try to serve a need that has not been satisfied already. And do not be afraid to fail; failure is what makes us learn and improve.

Q: What is your favorite item on the menu?

A: My favorite item on the menu is probably the Ram Burger. It’s more than a pound of pure deliciousness. Aside from the Ram burger, the Am-Mex Burger and Mac n’ Cheese Burger are my other favorites.

Q: Anything else you would like students to know?

A: I love my fellow Ramily and I hope to see everyone at the Lodge! Please follow us on Instagram or Facebook to keep track of promotions and deals, and visit our website. I miss everyone and I wish you the best semester!

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