Metro-East News

He once stood on pickle buckets to make Whoppers. Soon he’ll open his second Burger King.

Burger King coming to Belleville Crossing this fall

Jason Amarosa is building his second Burger King in St. Clair County. His Swansea store opened in 2015, and this store is tentatively scheduled to open in September.
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Jason Amarosa is building his second Burger King in St. Clair County. His Swansea store opened in 2015, and this store is tentatively scheduled to open in September.

Long before Jason Amarosa began developing Burger King restaurants in Swansea and Belleville, he had a much more humbling job.

Amarosa said that when he was a boy, he would go a Burger King owned by his father, Jay Amarosa, so he could learn the business from top to bottom.

“I’ve been doing this my entire life,” Jason Amarosa said. “When most kids were going to summer camp, I was going to work with my dad. I’d be working on a pickle bucket making Whoppers because I wasn’t tall to get up there and actually make sandwiches.”

The Burger King under construction at 5979 Belleville Crossing is tentatively scheduled to open Sept. 4.

Amarosa is now the owner of the Burger King under construction at 5979 Belleville Crossing. This restaurant is tentatively scheduled to open Sept. 4, and Amarosa forecasts it will do $1.4 million in sales annually and start with 20 full-time employees and 14 part-time employees.

Belleville aldermen in December granted an exemption on state sales tax for construction material purchased for the restaurant. This could save Amarosa an estimated $62,000 on the $2.3 million construction cost.

The new Belleville Burger King will have a design much different from the traditional Burger King building. It will have high ceilings, more photos on the walls and earth tone colors.

Amarosa also built the Burger King at 2711 N. Illinois St. in Swansea two years ago.

Along with owning the Swansea and Belleville Burger Kings, Amarosa is the director of operations for the Liberty Restaurant Group run by his father. Liberty has 23 Burger King restaurants in Illinois and Missouri, stretching from Vandalia to Washington, Missouri.

Amarosa, 29, recently met with the News-Democrat to talk about his career:

Q: Your father, Jay Amarosa, is a longtime Burger King franchise owner, and now you’re following his path as an owner. Can you talk about some of your experiences in starting out in Burger King?

A: “I started out at the complete bottom. But now looking back on it as an owner and operator and franchisee in the Burger King system, it was the best thing that he ever did for me because at this point now ... I know the ins and outs of Burger King. I held it against my old man that he made me do all these things, but now it’s a blessing that he did. I couldn’t be more appreciative.

“I’ve worked through the ranks: shift manager, assistant general manager, general manager, district manager, regional manager, director of operations, franchisee. I’ve held every position for an extended period of time.”

Q: Why did you decide to expand in the Belleville Crossing shopping center?

A: The increasing number of other restaurants in the shopping center, the nearby Belleville West High School and the possibility of a Walmart Supercenter going in at the corner of South 74th Street and Illinois 15 make the site attractive, Amarosa said.

“It shows that this is an up-and-coming area,” he said.

Amarosa said some areas in the metro-east have become “gridlocked” and don’t have room for new development.

“So this would be in my mind the development area that is going to come next. For someone like us, you want to be ahead of the curve and not behind it. If you’re behind it, you pay premiums. I think it’s a good site. I think it’s a little bit ahead of its time. I think five years down the road, as the Walmart and all this fills in, I think we’ll be in a really good spot.”

Q: You opened the Swansea Burger King a couple of years ago on Illinois Street. How is that restaurant doing?

A: “That restaurant is doing all right. It’s up 12 percent as of right now year-to-date. There’s always room for improvements, but that restaurant is on the right path.”

Q: What’s on the horizon for your company? Are you planning to enter other cities?

A: “We’re always looking to develop. We’re always looking to grow. Of course we need to get the doors open here, and then we’ll look next, but we’re always looking to develop more restaurants, new sites, and the more the merrier.”

Q: Why has your business been able to thrive?

A: “My biggest thing that I preach to everyone is: Yes this is a QSR, quick service restaurant; yes we’re in the food retail business, but to me what drives this business is I’m a people guy, this is a people business. I tell my district managers and my general managers all the time that you can get a hamburger anywhere — 25 places within two miles of where we are. What’s going to make the customer come back is the people side of it. How friendly, how fast, how clean and truly making people feel cared for, that we truly care about their business, and that’s our goal, whether it’s Swansea, Belleville or Liberty Restaurant Group, our goal is that we are a people business, and we’re going to do right by the customers the best of our abilities.

“We’re a family-run business. We really pride ourselves on being in tune. We’re not the guys that aren’t in the restaurants. Still to this day I make Whoppers every day when I’m in restaurants. When I walk into a restaurant that’s busy, you know the first thing I do is wash my hands, put gloves on and see how I can help. That’s how my Dad’s always done it. He’s a self-made guy. He started at the bottom in Burger King and worked his way up. That’s why he made me take that route as well, and that’s how we pride ourselves on. We’re very in tune with the business, and we have the best team period.”

About Jason Amarosa

  • Age: 29
  • Job: Burger King franchise owner in Swansea and Belleville; director of operations for Liberty Restaurant Group.
  • Outlook: Amarosa said the cost of beef has increased sharply but sales have been positive. “Things are going well in the Burger King world right now, sales are up. Commodity cost is a concern but other than that, from a sales standpoint, we’re doing all right.”