Homegrown brand brings ‘real taste’ of American burgers to Malaysians

Malaysians know how to recognise good and authentic food, it is of utmost importance to keep the originality alive, says founder 


UNDERLINING the authentic American burger as its flagship offering, Cornelius Lu, Founder of Pasadena Burger & Coffee believes that classic comfort food is reliable for the local food and beverage (F&B) scene. 

“Food is recession proof, especially burgers being a classic comfort food, so, I knew that the market is a reliable one. Understanding the components of a good authentic burger also made me realise that burgers are an easily scalable choice of food. 

First in Malaysia to offer the cheese dipping burger

“In Asia, there are not many local burger brands that provide access to authentic burgers, which means that there is room for growth. Although foreign brands are popular and sought after, local entrepreneurs and restaurateurs rarely venture into creating brands and companies around a proper American burger. 

“Moreover, the Malaysian F&B industry is valued quite high at around RM103 billion and it is projected to grow at 7.6% annually. So, it makes sense to invest in the market,” he told The Malaysian Reserve recently. 

He also said that understanding the power of a burger in various settings allowed him to see its potential when done right, based on his experience living in the US for more than two decades. 

He knew that there was something special about a real American burger when he first had one in Pasadena, California. 

Lu noted that as Malaysians know how to recognise good and authentic food, it is of utmost importance for him to keep the originality alive. 

“We also want to bring people together over food and the burger acts as a tool for us to achieve that goal,” he said, explaining the history of the company’s start-up. 

Pasadena Burger & Coffee offers a hybrid restaurant-cafe set-up where the cafe section provides customers with the space to end their burger meals with coffee and dessert. 

“We want our restaurant to be a place where people come together for a good experience from the food to the ambience. This is why we include classic coffee options, a variety of desserts and milkshakes on our menu.

“Pasadena Burger & Coffee was also the first in Malaysia to offer the cheese dipping burger. It gives our customers a bite filled with assorted cheeses melded into one sauce as well as the burger. 

“We are also the first to create a burger with A5 Miyazaki Wagyu beef. Burgers may be known for convenience but we decided to inject a little luxury into our burger options to offer an elevated burger experience,” he elaborated. 

Pasadena Burger & Coffee was also recently inducted into the Heinz Selection programme as one of the best independent burger houses globally. 

On the company’s business plan, Lu provided that currently the burger chain has two outlets (Plaza Mont Kiara and Lot 10) and is working on an expansion for the third through its equity crowd-funding (ECF) initiative. 

Explaining more on it, Lu said the company is pursuing an ECF initiative to help with brand exposure and provide fellow Malaysians with the opportunity to invest in a local brand, as well as launch the brand’s expansion on a wider scale. 

The ECF campaign is concurrently happening alongside Pasadena Burger & Coffee’s franchising plans that were made available beginning October 2022. 

Overall, the estimate for setting up one outlet is from RM550,000 to RM600,000. 

Moving forward, Lu’s team is also open to angel investors and venture capitalists to partner with in their expansion plans. 

With the right investor and partner, they are looking to open 10 to 15 outlets and venture into the retail market with their specialty cheese sauce and burger patties. 

The ECF campaign was recently hosted on PitchIN and intended to generate RM8 million in capital to take the company into its next phase of growth. The entrance threshold for investment through the ECF campaign has been purposefully established at RM4,000 to minimise the barrier to entry. 

The funds raised through the campaign will be utilised to support Pasadena Burger & Coffee’s expansion efforts including new locations, retail ventures and franchising options. 

The cash will be used to fund the initial set-up and day-to-day operations of new stores. 

The first four new locations will debut in prime malls in the Klang Valley area.

The growth will also be supported by the development of a central kitchen and a headquarters to ensure that the quality of the products is maintained throughout the outlets. 

On the challenges in the F&B industry, Lu preferred to not over-think the things that are out of his control. 

“The first round of funding is always a challenge for any business. Creating that credibility for people to trust and invest money is the current hurdle that we are working on. 

“In many ways, I think the biggest challenges in a business are also the most exciting like opening a new outlet, which comes with its own set of challenges like location scouting and set up. 

“The F&B industry is about consistency so even if I had the best chef, if they are unable to perform for just one day, it becomes a challenge. So, another challenge is to manage everything in the business as it comes,” he said. 

A burger with A5 Miyazaki Wagyu beef (Pics source: Pasadena Burger & Coffee)

While still new in the industry, Lu is very ambitious about Pasadena Burger & Coffee’s plans and outlook. 

If everything goes as planned, he would like to launch abroad within the next three years. 

“The goal is to have a successful ECF campaign and scale the business, after which we will look into another round of funding to expand the business to other countries. 

“Since we know burgers are well accepted in many countries and that ours are accepted for their authenticity, we believe that new markets will be welcoming,” Lu said. 

He also wanted to make a mark on the retail market. He said although there are already many burger patties in the retail market, he wanted Pasadena Burger & Coffee’s juicy patties to become a household name. 

It is interesting to note that American burgers or also famously known as “hamburgers” started when the foundation for beef sandwiches was laid with the domestication of cattle in Mesopotamia around 10,000 years ago, followed by the growth of Hamburg, Germany, as a free trade city in the 12th century where beef delicacies were popular. 

When the political revolution shook the 39 German Confederation states in 1848, it prompted even more German immigration to the US, bringing with them German gastronomy. 

Beer gardens thrived in American cities, and butchers provided a variety of traditional meat preparations. Since Hamburg was known as an exporter of high-quality beef, restaurants started offering “Hamburg-style” chopped steak. 

In mid-19th century America, cooks and physicians quickly adopted the “Salisbury Steak” after James H Salisbur y, a physician in New York proposed that cooked beef patties, made of raw shredded beef, chopped, ground or scraped as common prescriptions for digestive problems. 

Around the same time, the first popular home meat grinder called the American Chopper became widely available, paving the way for an explosion of readily available ground beef.

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition