Halo Burger just celebrated its 99th birthday and the storied QSR brand has made its mark as a regional company in Michigan with a focus on community.
Michigan-based Halo Burger has a long and storied history in the Flint area. What began in the roaring ’20s has evolved into a seven-unit brand that’s been named one of the best burgers in Michigan several times over.
The brand was founded in 1923 as Kewpee Hotel Hamburgers, and it was bought out by the Thomas family in 1967. The Thomas family switched the name to Halo Burger and sold to Dortch Enterprises in 2010.
A historic photo of Halo Burger. Provided.
That company attempted to cut costs and moved Halo Burger away from its Michigan roots. Finally, Dortch sold the company to Halo Country LLC in 2016, and everything came full circle when Halo Country stepped in to refresh the brand with the help of the Thomas family. The current seven units are all corporate owned.
Domenique Annoni, marketing manager for Halo Burger, sat down for a phone interview with QSRweb and said the QP Burger is the top seller, which features the works: lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, pickle and onion. But it’s the Olive Burger that takes center stage.
“We’re sort of known for our Olive Burger,” Annoni said, a quarter-pound burger with cheese and the works and the addition of olives. Another big seller is the Flint Coney, a coney dog with coney sauce, onion and mustard, and there’s a dessert known as a Bumpy cake that’s a local favorite.
Burger extras include bacon, jalapenos, banana peppers and cheese. Any burger can be made into a turkey burger, keto or bunless.
The famous Olive Burger is a menu favorite. Provided.
“We really focus on sourcing local ingredients,” Annoni said, “just to make sure we’re helping local businesses as well.” That includes Koegels hot dogs and Vernors sodas. Featured shakes use local ingredients as well, like the Traverse City Cherry Shake in the summer and the Mackinac Island fudge shake.
Setting Halo Burger apart
What sets Halo Burger apart from its competitors is that the 99-year-old brand remains involved in its communities with events like car cruises, sponsoring local events and specials like donating a dollar for every Beefy Double Combo sold to the Hurley Breast Cancer Patient Navigation Program and allowing customers to round up for the program. Team members will be wearing pink shirts to support breast cancer awareness as well.
“We’ve always looked for ways to be involved and give back,” Annoni said, “and help the people in need.”
Halo Burger’s marketing involved billboards, social media, digital ads, radio, direct mail, an app and a rewards program that boasts 27,000 email subscribers.
The potential for growth
Now that the company has seven units, could franchising be in the future?
“We are not looking to franchise,” Annoni said. “We are a locally owned business here in Genesee County, focused on community outreach initiatives and rebuilding brand reputation since our acquisition in 2016. We will continue to solely focus on getting within each local community and making a difference through sponsoring little leagues, raising money for local charities and hosting fundraising events.”
The Flint community had a water crisis in 2014 after the drinking water was contaminated with lead and possibly bacteria. Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency in Genesee County before President Barack Obama declared a federal state of emergency and authorized federal dollars from FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. Despite the hardships, Halo Burger served its communities.
“Through the many hardships the Flint community has endured, it is important to us that we continue and show up and feed our community when they need it the most while remaining dedicated to being a premium brand who serves fresh ingredients,” Annoni said. “It is very important to us that we continue to rebuild the Halo Burger legacy and don’t jeopardize our continued efforts by franchising, because ultimately the people come first.”
Annoni said Halo Burger owns its success to the loyalty of the customers who have patronized the brand for 99 years.
“The ones who ate at Halo Burger as a kid and now take their kids or even grandchildren there to eat on a regular basis,” are key to success, Annoni said. “Also, … the customers who have moved out of Michigan and spread the word around the country and make sure to visit us whenever they visit their hometown and continue to talk about how much they crave our food when they are away,” are instrumental.
“Our success is also contributed to our local community partners who make great efforts to support us each year through spreading our name and legacy to younger generations. When seniors talk about their first job being at Halo Burger to current employees, the nostalgia and reality of the brand turning 99 years this month continues. We are known for creating a sense of nostalgia when visiting our restaurants, it is our loyal customers who continue to build the nostalgia of the brand and spread the word of all our great menu options that remain exclusive to Michiganders. We are a Flint community staple that owes its success to its loyal customers, the ones who continue to spread the word and heighten the exclusivity.”
Mandy Wolf Detwiler is the managing editor at Networld Media Group and the site editor for PizzaMarketplace.com and QSRweb.com. She has more than 20 years’ experience covering food, people and places.
An award-winning print journalist, Mandy brings more than 20 years’ experience to Networld Media Group. She has spent nearly two decades covering the pizza industry, from independent pizzerias to multi-unit chains and every size business in between. Mandy has been featured on the Food Network and has won numerous awards for her coverage of the restaurant industry. She has an insatiable appetite for learning, and can tell you where to find the best slices in the country after spending 15 years traveling and eating pizza for a living.