San Diego burger joint turns TV spotlight into long-term business success

December 07, 2023
Hodad's owner Shane Hardin at the original Hodad's restaurant in San Diego's Ocean Beach neighborhood.

U.S. Bank client Hodad’s burgers continues to ride wave launched by appearance on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives

At Hodad’s burger restaurant in San Diego’s Ocean Beach neighborhood, it has for decades been common to see people lined up out the door and down the sidewalk, waiting patiently to get in.

A bacon cheeseburger with onion rings.
The bacon cheeseburger is Hodad's most popular menu item.

The most popular menu item is the bacon cheeseburger.

“We’ve always been known for our bacon,” said Hodad’s owner Shane Hardin. “We boil the bacon, put it on the grill and make it into a bacon patty. It’s something my dad started back in the ’80s.”

The restaurant is also known for its large portions, he said.

“We don’t want anyone leaving hungry,” Hardin said. “Sometimes, I’m like, ‘This is too much food; maybe we should dial it back,’ but we can’t do that now.”

While the restaurant did well enough to stay in business since it’s been in Hardin’s family, starting with his grandparents in the early 1970s, the long lines didn’t start until 2007, when it first appeared on the Food Network’s Diners, Dive-Ins and Drives show, hosted by Guy Fieri.

“It was only the second season of the show and when Guy showed up, we didn’t know who he was and had no idea what was going to come of it,” Hardin said.

“It ended up tripling our business overnight,” he said. “For quite a few years, it was the most rerun episode of that show, and we’d be able to tell when it was rerun because we’d get a new bump in business the next day. We’ve been on the show four or five different times now. Guy’s been very good to us.”

The exterior of Hodad's with a small line of people at the door.
While the line to enter Hodad's is short on this December weekday, the line can stretch down the block on busy days

While appearing on a popular TV show can be akin to lightning striking for a business, the real test comes in maintaining the throngs of new customers it brings in, Hardin said.

“You have to be ready to welcome that huge spike in business,” he said. “I know places that haven’t necessarily been ready it and things didn’t really work out for them beyond an initial rush.”

The key to ongoing success for Hodad’s, he said, is consistency.

“We do the same thing over and over again,” Hardin said. “We don’t mess with a good thing. People want to come and have a good thing and come back and have the same good thing, so we keep on top of consistency and make sure our longtime employees are teaching the new people how to do the same thing.”

Hodad’s has grown from the original beach location, adding a second restaurant in downtown San Diego, as well as multiple walk-up stands at Petco Park, where the San Diego Padres play, and Snapdragon Stadium, home to soccer, college football and other events. There’s also a Hodad’s brewery that makes beers sold at its various locations.

Hodad’s became a U.S. Bank client late last year, following the U.S. Bank acquisition of MUFG Union Bank, where Hodad’s had been a client for 15 or 20 years, Hardin said.

Hardin said Hodad’s made the transition to U.S. Bank because of his relationships with bankers who also moved from Union Bank to U.S. Bank.

“As a business, we want to keep everything as local as possible and even though U.S. Bank is a big national bank, I like to keep the relationships with the people I know and people who are good to me,” he said.

While Hardin does some of his banking at the U.S. Bank branch two blocks from the original Hodad’s, he also visits the branch a couple miles away because that’s where the former Union Bank employees he previously worked with are now.

“I’ll go out of my way to talk to someone I know,” he said. “We had a lot of good people at the old Union Bank branch and I like to be able to go to someone, ask their advice and trust what they say.”  

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