Burgers

How I Became an Accidental Burger King

Richard Wingfield's joint has forged a loyal following.

I wasn’t planning on getting into the burger business. It all happened by accident. I overheard two men talking about how one of them had three months left on a lease, and he was asking the other guy if he would consider taking over his business. The man said no, and I just turned to him and asked if he would mind if I took a look at his place.

I was introduced to the leasing manager of the building, and I asked if she would give me a trial run for the last three months of the lease. Once she agreed, I walked a 1-mile radius around the restaurant and knocked on doors. I told people I would be opening a burger restaurant and encouraged them to come eat. It paid off. After three months, the landlord gave me a five-year lease. I opened Wingfield’s Breakfast & Burger in 1985.

In 1990, the landlord wanted to sell the building for $25,000. I couldn’t buy it, so I started making plans to close. I set out in the neighborhood and talked to fellow business owners. I told them I only had 30 more days.

I also took cartons of cigarettes to my friend and customer, Bill, and I told him he wouldn’t be able to eat my hamburgers in a month. Bill gave me the money; I repaid him in four years.

Today, we sell about 150 to 200 burgers a day. I’m not going to give out too much information, but we use the most expensive ground beef money can buy. I use American cheese. One day, a customer came up and said he couldn’t taste the cheese, so I went out and bought a thicker sliced cheese.

The big buns happened by accident. We ran out so I headed to the bakery thrift store and bought leftover Mrs. Baird’s buns. We’ve been using that same brand ever since.

The seasoning I use was discovered during a product demonstration at Sam’s Club. I was watching a demonstration for a device used to cook ribs. The woman sprinkled seasoning on the meat before she cooked it.  I realized it wasn’t the device that made the meat good; it was the seasoning. Sam’s doesn’t sell it anymore, but I buy it from a secret source on the West Coast.

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