Meet Jimmy Hurlston, the lawyer turned entrepreneur driving a city’s love affair with burgers
Tuesday, May 22, 2018/
By Ben Savona and Emma Koehn
The burger business has had a strong run right across Australia in recent years, and a driving force behind that has been Melbourne’s Jimmy Hurlston, better known by his Instagram handle ‘jimmysburgers’.
But how does a once-upon-a-time Glen Huntly lawyer jump into one of the riskiest industries in Australia and emerge with a burger business turning over more than $2 million a year
Hurlston’s previous day job in intellectual property law doesn’t have a whole lot in common with burgers, but a ‘disillusioned’ Hurlston said all it took was a “really shitty day at work” to take the plunge.
He famously loves burgers, and set about developing a strong following on social media sharing the best of the best. But it was a 2012 book deal, which would see all of Hurlston’s accumulated burger knowledge and a magnitude of further research printed, that kicked off his entrepreneurial journey.
The idea of putting his passion to the page started to form during conversations with friends who worked in publishing and in 2013, Hurlston’s ‘The Burger Book Victoria’ was released. It began a whirlwind of affairs, that ultimately resulted in Hurlston creating one of the most popular burger restaurants in Melbourne city.
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The start of Easey’s
In early 2014, a friend of Hurlston’s who was working in property development in a site on Easey Street in Melbourne’s Collingwood approached him with a hospitality opportunity, asking if he wanted to “have a crack” at starting his own place.
The venue, which is known for its rooftop with train carriage seating, went through a soft launch in the early part of 2015, before opening to the public. It wasn’t long before Easey’s developed a reputation and there will soon be three Easey’s venues in Melbourne.
“We’ve got another Easeys outpost at Two Wrongs at South Yarra, which opened in May and in June, doing another one on Swanston Street, outside of RMIT University,” Hurslton says.
The immediate popularity of the burger chain saw Hurlston spread his wings further, opening Werribee’s Truck Stop burger joint in 2015. He’s also involved in digital marketing advice for restaurants through the venture Food Knights.
But when asked for advice for other entrepreneurs going into the food space, he jokes “don’t”.
“I think if you are looking to go and do something on your own it is extremely difficult, you have to do as much research as you can,” he says.
While Hurlston’s burger operations are turning over more than $2 million a year, he says the start of 2018 was tough for food businesses across the board.
“The hospitality industry as a whole, everyone I’ve spoken to were really battling in Feburary and March,” he says.
But Hurlston perhaps has an advantage that other operators don’t. His ‘jimmysburgers’ Instagram account features, almost exclusively, photos of epic burgers from venues across Melbourne, including his own, and it has a loyal following of more than 80,000 fans. The Easey’s Instagram account also has close to 40,000, meaning the entrepreneur has an audience of 120,000 potential diners he can connect with every day.
However, not every burger venture has gone quite to plan.
Hurlston brought the Easey’s approach to Sydney in 2016, launching the Darlinghurst burger joint Guilty. At the end of last year, the business wound up, with Hurlston saying the experience cost him and didn’t work out from the start.
He says while the venture was “a great idea in theory”, the expansion was spreading himself and the team too thin when it came to managing the day-to-day of a busy burger joint.
“It needed constant supervision, I found that I couldn’t not be there to drive it,” he says.
For now, Hurslton has Easey’s, Truck Stop and his social media accounts on the go, to name just a few things. Having seen inside a whole host of businesses through profiling their burgers over the past five years, Hurlston’s advice to entrepreneurs in the hospitality space is to learn from the experiences of others.
“Listen to people in the industry who have failed and succeeded, be a sponge,” he says.