The smell of burgers and fries wafted through the air as a stream of people packed into a small Umami Burger restaurant Wednesday afternoon, for a celebration of the Westwood restaurant’s grand opening.
U-mini is the first downsized version of Los Angeles-based Umami Burger that focuses on a to-go atmosphere.
The burger joint is among several new restaurants to open in Westwood within the past year that are focusing on catering to the UCLA community by offering quickly prepared and affordable food.
The eatery, located at 1131 Westwood Blvd., is across the street from 800 Degrees Neapolitan Pizzeria, another restaurant owned by Umami’s CEO Adam Fleischman that opened earlier this year.
“Westwood was kind of an untapped location,” said Veronica Rathbourn, a spokeswoman for Umami Burger and a UCLA alumna. “Everyone said, “˜Nothing in Westwood seems to stay,’ but I think you just need to do it right.”
U-mini has 45 seats and a condensed menu that includes four different types of burgers and two varieties of shakes and fries, said Brandon Dismuke, Umami project manager.
The restaurant also made several adaptations to cater to the large population of UCLA students and workers, said general manager Joseph Wilson.
To accomodate the college student’s budget, U-mini also offers lower prices than those of Umami Burger, with burgers ranging from $5.50 to $6 for fewer complex ingredients used, whereas a burger at Umami will usually cost anywhere from $10 to $19, according to Umami’s website.
Customers can order using iPads, and the store has Wi-Fi access so students are able to study while eating at the restaurant, Rathbourn said. The restaurant designed a system of searing the burgers on a grill unique to Umami so the food is still fresh when students get back to their dorms, Dismuke said.
Wilson said the company is planning to create a smartphone application for students to order from.
Wilson added that the restaurant is considering allowing students to pay using BruinCards in the future.
“I think using new technology to help get people in and out of a restaurant quickly is a win-win from a business standpoint and for busy students,” said Angie Yee, third-year economics student, who plans to visit the new restaurant.
TLT Food, another new restaurant which opened in Westwood earlier this month, also attempts to cater its business around students’ needs by providing affordable food in a quick manner, said Daniel Shemtob, the owner of TLT Food.
800 Degrees Neopolitan Pizzeria also understands the student need for lower-priced food options while on a time constraint, making pizzas at a relatively quicker rate, Rathbourn said.
Collectively, Shemtob said he thinks the new restaurants make the Village a more popular destination for customers.
“It is great that TLT, U-mini and 800 Degrees were all the first of their kind for each concept and we’re all in the same location,” he said.
U-mini’s convenient location, quick service appeal and effort to connect new technology to the dining experience is appreciated by Westwood customers.
Brianna Ziegler, an employee at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, said she has been a fan of Umami Burger since the original restaurant opened in La Brea and is planning to visit U-mini often because of the accessibility offered through the future mobile ordering options.
“I am really excited about U-mini because I never know my schedule working with the in-patient unit. The technology used will be able to get my food ready when I need it,” Zeigler said.
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