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Build a better burger and they will come
by Jessica Garcia
Jun 25, 2009 | 1938 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
<a href=>Tribune/Chase Silver</a> - Luther Mack will open his new Fuddruckers Restaurant on Monday at the Legends at Sparks Marina. Mack said Bill Cosby will help Sparks Mayor Geno Martini cut the ribbon.
Tribune/Chase Silver - Luther Mack will open his new Fuddruckers Restaurant on Monday at the Legends at Sparks Marina. Mack said Bill Cosby will help Sparks Mayor Geno Martini cut the ribbon.
Luther Mack Jr.’s philosophy of running restaurant is, “If you build a burger, they will come.”

The 70-year-old restaurateur, known best locally for owning 11 McDonald’s stores until he sold them recently, thought he was near retirement until an opportunity came along to own the new Fuddruckers burger franchise that opens Monday at the Legends at Sparks Marina.

“I thought it would be time to get out (of the career),” Mack said Thursday, as some final preparations were being made in the store for its opening. “But I knew I’d miss my friends, my customers.”

Mack learned the ropes of being a manager through McDonald’s, where he attended the chain’s Hamburger University, dedicated to operations training and leadership development, in Oak Brook, Ill. Today, more than 5,000 students attend the university. When he returned to Reno, Mack attended the University of Nevada, Reno for a master’s degree.

Soon after that, his 35-year career with one of the most popular fast food chains began. He owned the second McDonald’s store in the area on Oddie Boulevard and continued to acquire new locations throughout Reno and Sparks until 1998, speaking highly of the chain’s confidence in him.

He attributes his success to his passion for people.

“I love people, I like to converse with them,” he said.

But eventually he gave it up and was awarded in May for his work with McDonald’s. But instead of slowing down, he’s now helping his manager and employees put the finishing touches on Fuddruckers, the opening of which comes almost two weeks after the Legends grand opening. Staff are scrutinizing over details like murals and answering questions as they go through corporate team-building exercises and polish up an atrium that displays UNR athletics photos — a unique feature to a Fuddruckers restaurant as Mack was once a state athletics coach. Mack’s athletics career included a commission post on the state commission that regulates boxing.

Mack has spent a total of 59 years in Reno and Sparks and said he is especially excited to open a restaurant that is brand new to the area.

“In this business, you’ve got to have heart ... and patience,” he said. “Everything is a risk. You know the old adage, ‘No risk, no reward?’ I look at the potential.”

According to a press release by the Bauserman Group, the public relations firm representing the Legends development, Fuddruckers was founded in 1980 in San Antonio by Philip Romano. There are now more than 260 locations worldwide, all of which have a 1950s and ’60s theme. In 1998, Michael Cannon purchased the chain and has been the owner ever since.

Mack said he enjoys that the restaurant keeps everything fresh and diverse. He also noted that it was all local companies and people who built the new Fuddruckers building, which sends its revenues back into the local economy.

“This isn’t the first time Fuddruckers will be in a (development like this), but it’s the first time it will be in one of this magnitude with high-end retail, a diversity of retail,” he said.

Mack had his pick of the litter for employees. From the Legends job fair in April, he received about 1,500 applications and emphasized diversity from the top down among the 80 positions that were filled, he said.

“In the summertime, there’s not much for employment,” he said. “The worst thing you can do is hire big and trim down later.”

He’s also a supporter of Sparks, as made apparent by a designated “Sparks Room” for private parties. On the walls are old photos he was able to acquire from the Sparks Heritage Museum with old trains and the Sparks “Y” and Chuck Wagon restaurant from the city’s early history.

Mack loves the fact that Fuddruckers has a chance to take root for the first time in the region.

“This (restaurant) is brand new,” he said. “It has no bad history. When I saw Legends, I saw how beautiful it was and in three years there will be buildout, but this corner is really visible. You know that saying, ‘If you build it, it will come’? Well, if you build a burger, they will come.”
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