Have you wondered where the name ‘Big Wheel Burger’ came from? Us too! We’re here to tell you it has nothing to do with burgers and everything to do with soccer. Surprising, right? We chatted with owner, Calen McNeil, and found out that ‘Big Wheel McNeil’ is his nickname. It was bestowed on him in his pick-up soccer league when he went running down the field so fast, that he lost his footing and started barrel rolling – looking a bit like a spinning wheel. So, when Calen set about planning to open a burger place, the name Big Wheel Burger seemed obvious. Although, if you have visited one of the three Big Wheel Burger locations, you will have noticed that Big Wheel has become his own character.
Big Wheel is an extension of things that Calen likes such as burgers, crunchy salads and breakfast sandwiches. He is quick to point out that he does not cook but knows what he likes to eat. The concept is based on quick service food from the USA such as In and Out Burger and Shake Shack. The classic burger joint but with a twist – they use local, organic ingredients, and are Canada’s first carbon neutral fast food restaurant.
Calen notes that “Fast food has a stigma as it produces a lot of waste. Which is why we became carbon neutral right away. It was a very good decision.” Every consumer item at the restaurant is compostable, diverted from landfills, and provides compost for their Food Eco District (FED) garden at the Cook Street location. All three Big Wheel locations participate in FED as Calen was one of the original founders of the non-profit organization. He brought the idea to Synergy Enterprises in 2012 and it is now a society with full time staff who work with local restaurants that are committed to reducing their impact on their environment.
Big Wheel is involved in our community with the Victoria Hospice – they raised $4,350 during June 2018 and had so much fun during their fundraising that they will continue in the future. CFAX Santas Anonymous, Mustard Seed Street Church & Food Bank and Orange Shirt Day are also benefactors of Big Wheel Burger’s generosity. In fact, you can buy your shirt for 2018 Orange Shirt Day (30 September) at a Big Wheel Burger soon and show your support for “Every Child Matters”.
We asked Calen what the biggest challenge was when he opened the first Big Wheel Burger. His toughest hurdle was “People’s understanding of what we were doing. They thought we were going to be a gourmet burger shop. It took a while to get momentum as the compostable and environmental angles made it confusing.”
And the biggest success? Calen said he is most proud of what his staff and customers can do for the community along side Big Wheel Burger. They provide opportunities for staff and pay them a fair wage which means quite a few of their original team still work there. Customers also have a lot of input, so they feel invested in the restaurant and the food that is provided. Calen notes that “all those things need to align for the Big Wheel Burger economy to be successful. This is a triple bottom-line business.”