Learn how hip-hop’s Trill OG became the face of a food venture that’s infiltrating live sports and blockbuster concert tours — and soon, a slew of new cities.
Embarking on three straight shows in the place CJ Stroud calls home, Swift sang her heart out in front of 62,000 fans hungry for every song in her now-iconic three-hour set. Hours before the pop star touched the stage, rap legend Bun B was already in the arena.
Bun wasn’t looking to take a selfie, however — he was preparing for a triple-header of his own. The Eras Tour marked the home opener for his Trill Burgers venture as it completed the leap from festival food cart to a stadium-scale eatery.
“I looked at this burger as an album,” Bun B told Boardroom. “I basically put it on promo in front of as many people as possible. It’s now in a major NFL stadium serving tens of thousands of people every time they have events.”
From feeding Beyoncé fans at packed shows to taking Trill Burgers across his native Texas, the Underground King is building something bigger than anyone — including himself — could have ever imagined.
“If you’d asked me a year ago, ‘Are burgers going to change my life?’ I’d probably say for the time being,” Bun said. “But now, the way we look at this brand? Over the next 20 years, it could be a huge contributor to the culinary industry nationwide and potentially worldwide.”
Talking to the Trill OG himself, Boardroom dives into the structure and scale of Bun’s burger business that’s doing deals with a $5.3 billion football franchise and getting marketing bumps from the biggest names in music.
Building the brand both online and on the road, Trill Burgers officially opened its first brick-and-mortar location in Houston in June 2023.
Despite experiencing nearly the hottest summer in H-Town history, fans found themselves lining up at Trill Burgers for hours on end in 110-degree heat. Even as the temperatures rose, the buzz built.
“On a daily basis between Monday and Thursday, we’re probably doing about 1,400 burgers a day,” Bun said. “On Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, we can do anywhere from 1,900 to 2,200 in a given day.”
The blossoming restaurant made for consistent demand in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood. So, what did that foretell of the fanfare if Trill Burgers took its talents to NRG Stadium, a $352 million football fortress capable of seating 72,220?
At the Houston Texans’ home opener on Sept. 17, the question was quickly answered.
“In a five-hour period, we did 2,100 burgers,” Bun said.
For reference, it typically takes the flagship Trill Burgers ten hours to hit such sales numbers.
“When we saw those numbers? We said we have to prioritize NRG over everything right now,” Bun said.
To prioritize the in-stadium demand, Trill Burgers opted to open up the Montrose location on Sundays only after Texans home games concluded. Over the next several weeks, the company has streamlined its processes as it learned on the fly. While inordinate demand is a good thing for Bun’s business, the experience nonetheless came with a learning curve.
A long line inside a store is one thing; tens of thousands pining for the same signature offering is another.
“People were ordering eight to 10 burgers for their section,” said Bun. “It’s a bananas opportunity for us as a brand.”
It’s also a case study of what a well-oiled machine with cultural cachet and a can’t-miss product can do given the big stage.
Historically, national chains have dominated arenas based on connections, credibility, and economies of scale, a fact that only validates Trill Burgers’ local, authentic approach further.
“The Texans used to have Fuddruckers as their burger and they did amazing business,” Bun noted, “but we are literally anywhere 2x to 4x what anybody has ever done in the best way.”
And on the road ahead, as a rookie quarterback looks to turn the Texans into a playoff contender, Bun B wants to turn Trill Burgers into a powerhouse.
With 4x the expectations means 4x the level of quality, consistency, and professionalism. This turning it up a notch is even more remarkable given how fast the NFL opportunity came to be.
Originally, Trill Burgers got inside NRG Stadium by hosting pop-ups similar to what attendees see at festivals. Earning a spot next to a Modelo beer station — a major Texans sponsor — traffic and interest spiked from fans and execs alike.
Quickly, NRG made an offer to make Trill Burgers a permanent tenant.
“They came to us with the idea of two locations in the stadium,” said Bun. “We eventually agreed to four stations in total, as well as suite services. I’m in Texas where football is king, so the best thing I could do for this burger locally is to present it at a football game.”
Riding the wave of the state’s flagship sport, Trill Burgers is spending this fall focusing on NRG engagement while the goal of expanding into additional arenas takes shape on the horizon.
“Our plan is to touch as many people as possible with our brand and our product,” Bun said. “Sports venues offer that opportunity. They give us those numbers.”
Numbers that are noticeably on the rise, leading to investors of all avenues looking to buy in on Bun.
Hunger for More
Trill Burgers is only in its infancy as a full-time physical presence, but all the early momentum suggests that Bun’s venture has real potential to grow and prosper on a grand scale.
“We have big, broad, long-term plans for this brand,” said Bun. “Football games are a huge opportunity, but they still do events for the rest of the year. Being there when football started meant we’d be there when Beyoncé showed up.”
Having fed Queen Bey and her swarm when the Reinassaince Tour rolled into NRG on Sept. 24, Bun’s business is booming in the region that raised him even when the Texans are on the road. Naturally, he’s already eyeing opportunities for Trill Burgers in additional arenas both figurative and literal.
Speaking to Boardroom while watching a baseball game, he quickly notes that the defending World Series champion Houston Astros are currently under contract with another hamburger vendor at the moment.
Still, that doesn’t mean more opportunities in other massive venues that host sports, music, and other live events.
“We just fed Drake’s crew after his show at Toyota Center,” Bun noted of the superstar’s two-night blowout at the home of the Rockets on Sept. 17 and 18. “This is a cultural brand.”
A cultural brand intended to touch taste buds beyond Texas.
“I’m trying to feed the Buffs,” Bun said of Deion Sanders’ ascending Colorado football program. “I don’t need to come to a game, I’ll come to practice or a film session. Out-of-pocket just on us. I want to support the great things Coach Prime is doing over there. So, when you talk about sports marketing, that’s the way we’re looking at stuff.”
Just as Bun is looking all over the map for ways to build Trill Burgers, potential partners from all over the globe are looking at him. In conversation, Bun notes interest from VC funds, individual groups, and companies with upwards of 200 doors.
While big bucks from deep pockets would make most new entries to a space quickly cash out, Bun’s learnings from the music industry and dedication to keeping Trill Burgers true and real allow him to maintain a more measured approach.
“I don’t want a bunch of locations just to say I have a bunch of locations,” Bun said, “but as soon as we’re ready to open another door, I want to open it. There’s no hesitation about another Trill Burgers — it’s just about when and how to do it properly.”
For now, that means making Trill Burgers more easily available across Houston and, soon, the entire Lone Star State.
“We’re trying to create a system that allows us to replicate this proof of concept in Houston again and again and again until we are considered the premier elevated fast food brand in this country,” said Bun. “Gimmie about seven to years to do that, but I think in the next three years, we’ll have anywhere from seven to 10 locations inside Texas and outside.”
Closing out 2023 strong, Bun’s vision is set on beefing up staff and arriving even earlier for prep at NRG Stadium events. He intends to grow the company at a consistent rate and expand to more NFL catering in time.
It’s a level-headed kind of poise for someone who’s fed thousands in a matter of months, reaching Swifties, the BeyHive, and football fanatics alike. It’s a testament to a man who’s always been able to build trust across eras, regions, and demographics simply by being authentic and hospitable.
“This burger is the UGK of food,” Bun said, alluding to his and the late Pimp C’s iconic rap duo. “This company is built with 31 years of my cultural blood, sweat, and tear equity with that Trill name on it. So, not only does the quality of the product have to hold up, but I have to make sure that when I incorporate these things, I don’t take away from the legacy that’s already solid.”
A legacy leveraged in hip-hop over 30 years ago deep in the heart of Texas that now grants Bun a chance to become a king in a whole different lane.
“This burger gave me true purpose again,” Bun said. “It’s helped me reprioritize things. I wake up every morning excited wanting to learn more and more about this space so that it’s competitive on a national level.”
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