Richard Manger is skinny. It’s a little surprising, considering he owns Blimpy Burger, an Ann Arbor landmark that has served up greasy food for almost 55 years.
Manger’s relationship with the restaurant began when he worked there as a University student in the early 1970s. It was there that he met his wife Chris Manger, who also worked there as a University student.
While working at the restaurant, Manger designed a “Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger” logo that was later printed on T-shirts. The shirts – with Manger’s original design – are still sold at the restaurant.
After leaving the University, Manger worked at a few restaurants in Ann Arbor. He eventually returned to his old haunt, though, buying Blimpy Burger in 1992.
The Blimpy Burger operation is a family affair. Chris Manger helps out when the restaurant is short-staffed, and so do three of their four children.
Some things at Blimpy Burger have changed since Manger worked there in the 1970s.
The restaurant originally had no printed menu. Because everything was oral, customers had to ask for food in a specific order. Although there’s a menu now, the tradition has remained. Blimpy Burger is known for its strict procedure – cooks often chastise customers for making mistakes when ordering.
There is a method to the madness. Fries must be ordered first since they take the longest to cook.
“The whole idea behind the rules we have is to make the line move faster,” Manger said, taking a bite of his favorite burger – a triple cheeseburger on an onion roll.
Manger said his employees are dedicated to the restaurant, usually staying for years at a time. He said working at Blimpy Burger is more enjoyable than other restaurants because employees wait on customers, cook their food and ring up orders, which provides more customer interaction.
“You may be a cook in the kitchen, and the customer loves the food, but the waitress gets all of the compliments and tips,” Manger said.
He said Blimpy Burger is a fun place to work, evidenced by the snow sculptures he builds outside.
A polar bear and cheeseburger made out of snow stand beneath the restaurant’s awning. The snow sculptures take up to 12 hours to make, depending on how much snow there is on the ground.