DALLAS — For Mary Sober and Justin Kline, it was a daunting proposition pursuing their dream of starting up a new restaurant during a pandemic that was limiting in-person dining.
Undeterred, the married couple with three kids jumped at the perfect opportunity to take over Dandy Burger last October.
“It’s been great so far. I’ve been blown away,” said Sober, who works by herself so far at the drive through burger joint at the Monmouth Cutoff Road in Dallas. “I was a little hesitant going in, but I’m amazed how busy it is, by the support we’ve got and how friendly everybody is.”
Sober and Kline had talked a lot about wanting to own a small business.
“We both used to work at a small fish and chips restaurant, so we liked the small business,” Sober said. “We wanted to do something on our own time, something that’s a little flexible that works good for us and our three kids.”
She said previous owner, Otis Pettit, after five years running Dandy Burger, was done, ready to move on to work on race cars. Taking over with an established menu and customer base was the perfect scenario.
“I guess that was kind of my thing,” the 27-year-old former stay-at-home mom said. “I didn’t want to step up on my own and start 100% from scratch. Being able to step into something that was already established was perfect and what I was wanting. His his menu is great, the food was great and his customers are great.”
The first challenge was setting up a work and home schedule to accommodate her three kids, ages 5, 11 and 12, especially with schools still closed and attending distance-learning only.
“It has been hit and miss, here and there, but we’re starting to get in the swing of things. We’re trying to make the best of the situation,” Sober said.
So far, it’s a solo operation with a space small enough for Sober to take orders and man the grill by herself.
“Some days it gets a little crazy where I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off,” she admitted.
On the busiest days there can be up to five cars in line on both sides of the drive through lanes. And she gets quite a few walkups, explaining that all the surrounding businesses with mechanics all come over and eat.
“So far it’s manageable. We’ve hemmed and hawed about hiring somebody else, but right now I don’t think we will,” she added.
Sober discovered, however, the biggest challenge is not in the kitchen but in the office, doing the books.
“Being here, operating daily is easy. But the business end of it is new, It’s not hard, it’s just a little intimidating. But we’re getting the swing of things a few months in,” she said.
Another public concern Sober’s had to overcome is operating safely in the midst of the spread of the coronavirus. She said she just passed her last health inspection and talked with the health inspector quite a bit about it, especially about whether to wear a mask or not while working.
“He said because I’m in here by myself and I’m maintaining a six-foot distance, and there’s a window between us and their car window, ultimately it was my decision,” Sober explained. “He leaned toward you might want to wear one to make your customers comfortable. But, I’ve only had one person say anything to me directly.”
She added a majority of her customers aren’t wearing a mask, and that one customer who pointed out her lack of a mask still went away happy.
Now four months into operating Dandy Burger, among her menu of fast-food staples, the double cheeseburger remains the most popular item.
“People have big appetites, I guess,” she said.
Even with an established menu of favorites, Sober said they’re looking to add to it.
“We’re actually working on a breakfast menu,” she said. “So fingers crossed, we’re shooting for spring-break time coming out with a breakfast menu of biscuits and gravy and breakfast sandwiches.”
In addition, she and her husband are working on increasing their presence on social media.
“We’ve started up a Facebook page, but the computer stuff remains my weakness. I’d rather be here and talk to people,” she said.
Where: 888 SE Monmouth Cutoff Road, Dallas
When: 11 a.m. - 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday
11 a.m. - 4 p.m., Saturday
ABOUT THE SERIES: In Dish Up we take a regular, closer look at regional restaurants serving up their customers’ favorite cuisines.