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updated: 8/25/2010 4:31 PM

Ex-McDonald's execs back in the burger business

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  • Ed Rensi, left, and Tom Dentice, retired McDonald's executives, are opening a gourmet burger restaurant Friday in Lombard.

      Ed Rensi, left, and Tom Dentice, retired McDonald's executives, are opening a gourmet burger restaurant Friday in Lombard.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 

Two retired McDonald's executives are back in the burger business.

Tom Dentice, 71, of Oak Brook and Ed Rensi, 66, of Downers Grove left the burger giant more than 10 years ago with a wealth of information about managing and operating restaurants.

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The longtime friends dabbled in other business ventures before coming up with a plan to launch an upscale burger restaurant, Tom & Eddie's.

The establishment is set to open Friday at The Shops on Butterfield, 348 Yorktown Shopping Center, in Lombard. "We're offering savory dishes," Rensi said, adding that they have been testing and working with the recipes for nearly a year.

Diners can expect 100 percent Angus beef burgers, smoked Gouda cheeses, aged cheddars and even walnut butter served on one of the burgers. Salads, tuna or turkey sandwiches are other menu choices at the new eatery that seats 80 people inside and 20 outdoors.

Signature burgers include the Ampersand topped with apple wood smoked bacon, Gouda cheese, barbecue sauce, Haystack onions and a fried egg. The Bushel & a Peck is topped with Granny Smith apples, walnut butter, brie cheese and caramelized onions.

The average cost for a meal at the new eatery is $10 to $12 a person, said Rensi, adding that there is no tipping allowed. He said they pay their employees a higher salary so that tips are not part of the diner's equation.

Malts or milkshakes made with Haagens-Dazs ice cream, fresh-baked cookies and build-your-own floats highlight the dessert menu.

The restaurant owners admit their new venture, which they hope to expand in the suburban area later this year, is much different from their previous burger mission. "McDonald's is a fabulous company with great management that handles the mass market - an important value," Rensi said. In fact, he and his business partner hope for the same success with Tom & Eddie's.

The men are now going after a different customer with their handmade hamburger patties. "We're looking at an older customer," Rensi said. "It's high-quality food, a little bit gourmet," Dentice said.

He added that with the popularity of the Food Channel, "America is starting to wake up in the culinary area."

The family-oriented establishment, featuring a children's menu, is not geared for the customer on the run. "Our customer will sit down and spend 25 to 40 minutes with us," Rensi said.

The duo says the fast-casual segment of the industry is one that is growing despite the recession. "We feel confident," Dentice said.

The men have extensive burger resumes to back up their positive attitudes.

Dentice started flipping burgers in 1965 at a fast-food drive-up after serving in the Air Force. He grew addicted to the adrenaline rush. He worked his way up through the ranks over 32 years and retired in 1998 as executive vice president in charge of operations and training.

Rensi, with a wife and baby to support, started at McDonald's in 1966 after responding to a "Help Wanted - Grill Man" sign for a job that paid 85 cents an hour. Years passed and experience flourished. He retired in 1998 as CEO of McDonald's USA.

The new eatery, employing 41 people, is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. For more, check out tomandeddies.com.

• Kim Mikus covers small business. She welcomes comments at kmikus@dailyherald.com.

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