In the most sincere Greek family tradition, Bill Georgiou wants to make sure everybody gets fed.
Georgiou, 50, is the owner of both the Burg Bar & Grill, on Central Avenue, and the Burg Diner on the corner of 49th Street and 30th Avenue N.
He’s been in the restaurant business for decades – he managed the family business, Maria’s Greek Family restaurant, until 2007. He opened the Burg Bar & Grill not long after.
The Burg Diner debuted in 2015.
He was just getting ready for the diner’s busiest season when the coronavirus scare shut all restaurants down. While the Central Avenue Burg, known for its gourmet hamburgers and Greek delicacies, adapted reasonably well to carry-out business, the story was different at the neighborhood diner. People like to sit and chat over their breakfast; “the diner experience,” he calls it.
“I’m just not the kind of guy that’s going to put my head in a hole and hide, and wait for things,” Georgiou says. “I have to keep on going.”
He looked around … and remembered he’d been stocking up for the busy season.
“And because we were stocked and loaded, I have all this pancake mix. And I’ve got to keep the diner relevant. And I wanted to help.
“So I thought ‘What’s a nice little comfort food that I can do, that’s going to at least keep the restaurant equipment going, keeping the power on, blah blah blah. Well, people will probably want some pancakes.”
And so Bill Georgiou decided he would make pancakes and give them away. For free. On Wednesday and Thursday mornings.
At first, the offer was made to families with children. Then, to first responders.
And last week, he lifted all the rules.
“I don’t care if you’re working, I don’t care about anything – I’m there, I’m going to give you pancakes if you want ‘em,” he says.
“Anything that we can do to help, only because that’s what we need to do in times like this.”
From 9 a.m. to noon on those two days, Georgiou and two helpers pack up freshly-made pancakes, plus – if you ask for them – scrambled eggs and a side of meat. To go.
“If you say hey, I want the eggs over medium, we’ll make ‘em for you. And bacon, sausage links or sausage patties.”
The pancake mix was in-house already, but Georgiou is buying the eggs and meat at a retail store each morning before the diner giveaway begins.
The best way to put in your order is to drive up to the diner’s entrance. “I yell out the front door – it’s very Greek style,” Georgiou laughs. “I’m loud and I take charge – ‘How many do you want?’” You can call ahead, too.
Although the kitchen is otherwise closed, Georgiou and his employees are using to for food prep for the Central Avenue restaurant.
Most of the diner staff were let go when the pandemic arrived.
“The first thing I did was give away food to my employees that got furloughed, basically the cooks. Most of the girls are working with their husbands’ businesses, but the poor guys in the kitchen, they don’t have a job right now.
“I gave them tubes of hamburger meat to cook at home for their families. I gave them vegetables. I gave them bread, because it was going to go bad anyway.”
Down but by no means out, Bill Georgiou intends to “keep going” until the crisis lifts and he can re-open his beloved businesses full-time.
The pancake mix, he says, seems to be long-term. “I don’t know how long it could last,” he says. “I have probably eight more boxes, that have six big bags per.”
Read the 2018 St. Pete Catalyst profile of Bill Georgiou here.