Tom & Eddie’s, a gourmet burger restaurant, is celebrating one year since its Deerfield restaurant first opened on June 15, 2011, at 740 Waukegan Rd., Deerfield.
“We are committed to giving our Deerfield guests the best,” said Ed Rensi, president and co-founder of Tom & Eddie’s, “and that means affordable meals, gourmet ingredients and warm hospitality that together create a relaxed and happy dining experience.”
Many special promotions are planned for the June 15 anniversary. Every hour prizes will be given away. The first 15 people born on June 15 will receive a free meal, and anyone with a June 15 birthday can enter a drawing for 15 days of free meals.
Everyone who dines at Tom & Eddie’s Deerfield on June 15 will receive free mini S’mores shake. Free gummy bears shaped like hamburgers will be given to all kids. A magician will dazzle Deerfield guests from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Looking back at year number one
The founders – Tom Dentice and Ed Rensi – knew opening four restaurants in the first year would be daunting, but the high 90s satisfaction ratings customers consistently give as proof, that the meticulous planning paid off. Restaurants are in Lombard, Geneva, Deerfield and Vernon Hills.
“Ed and I have been doing this for a few years,” Dentice said, referring to their combined 70 years experience with McDonald’s. “Although Tom & Eddie’s is very different from McDonald’s, each of us learned a lot from our experience there.”
In 1984, Rensi was named CEO of McDonald’s USA, a position he held until 1998, and Dentice is the former executive vice president in charge of Operations and Training. Each man had started as a trainee in a single drive-up hamburger stand, making less than a dollar an hour. A couple of decades later, they became top executives with the world’s most successful quick service restaurant company.
Dentice and Rensi’s top priority was, and remains, taste and flavor from quality ingredients with a concentration on fresh. They also committed themselves to working with as many local vendors as possible. For example, Chicago-based Turano breads makes a hamburger bun specifically for Tom & Eddie’s, and Tom & Eddie’s pickles are from Puckered Pickles in Chicago.
But a good burger, the partners agree, is all about the meat.
“It’s surprising how many people actually don’t know how to make a burger,” Dentice said. “It has to do with grill temperature, searing, and the quality of the meat. We use hand-formed patties of fresh, never frozen, 100 percent Angus chuck.”
“If there’s one compliment we hear consistently, it’s that our customers can taste the meat,” Dentice said. “In fact, our co-founder Vince Naccarato says our meat is so good that a half pound burger should be a menu standard so we offer Half Pound Mondays at third-pound prices. We get compliments, too, about the flavor of our non-beef burgers – the turkey, edamame and Ahi Tuna burgers.”
A few things did surprise these two hamburger veterans. Their customer base includes more families than they expected. Dentice thinks perhaps it’s Tom & Eddie’s strong support of local non-profit educational organizations. To date, Tom & Eddie’s donated more than $40,000 among the Culinary and Hospitality Center at College of DuPage, the Geneva Academic Foundation, the Batavia Foundation for Educational Excellence, and the Deerfield Education Foundation.
Once the family demographic was observed, Rensi purchased multiple quality wooden educational toys for each location rather than passing out a couple of crayons per kid.
“You see, it’s all about hospitality,” Rensi said. “From the décor to the toys to the menu, we put good taste in everything we do.”
“Something else surprised me,” said Dentice. “People get very excited that there’s a real Tom and Ed. Frankly it blew my mind. It seems to be an assumption that we’ve just invested but are not personally involved. Not true! Ed and I really do work in the restaurants every day. We bus, we serve, and we talk to customers. I think it makes people feel better that there are real people behind the restaurant, and that Ed and I care.”
Dentice and Rensi don’t just breeze by a table and ask, “How is everything?” They become engaged with their guests. They also train their managers and wait staff to do the same thing. They call it “table visits” as opposed to table stops.
This fall, Tom & Ed will open their fifth Tom & Eddie’s in Naperville. They are adding new and improved menu items, and they are thinking of more limited time offers. In the meantime, Dentice and Rensi will continue their homemade sauces, concentration on fresh and local, the very popular “no tipping” policy, green packaging, and going the extra mile for customers.
“Two things differentiate us,” Rensi said. “We focus on quality ingredients with a strong emphasis on local. That’s one. The other is our hospitality. Frankly, the entire organization powers us up, and it’s energizing. It’s like having a party every day. I am reminded of the phrase: ‘The work of children is play; the play of adults is work.’ We want to build a lot of restaurants. It’s a rebirth every time, and it’s thrilling.”