CINCINNATI — In the kitchen of Just Q’in BBQ, owner Matt Cuff is cooking up something new. Instead of his signature brisket, its burgers sizzling in his cast iron skillet as Burger Love Cincy gets off the ground.

While the name and menu are new, Cuff said he’s not straying too far from Just Q’in’s roots. Nearly all the ingredients are in-house, all the cooking will happen in the same kitchen and even the proceeds will come back to help the staff who made this new endeavor possible.

What You Need To Know

  • Burger Love Cincy opened at the end of January

  • The burger joint is a ghost kitchen out of Just Q’in BBQ

  • The burgers are made from brisket trimmings

  • The low overhead costs allow the kitchen to use the proceeds to fund his nonprofit

Burger Love is a ghost kitchen, or food service run entirely through takeout and delivery orders. 

Cuff said he started the business as a way to cut down on kitchen waste. Before preparing the brisket at Just Q’in, it’s trimmed to a standard size, but Cuff said all that leftover meat was perfectly good.

“We’ve been looking for something to do with it,” he said. “It was all going to waste.”

Cuff considered adding sausage to the menu, but it was too similar to the rib tips he already offered, then he started experimenting with burgers.

“We do an 80/20 mix on our burgers, grind 'em up and patty 'em up right away,” he said.

After a few taste tests, they were a hit, but Cuff wasn’t sure they fit in with the rest of the menu.

“We wanted to be all in on barbecue and known for barbecue and so we didn’t want to put something on the menu that was going to compete with our brand,” he said.

That’s why Cuff decided to create another brand: Burger Love Cincy, which would operate out of Just Q’in on the weekends and offer late night options while the BBQ joint could maintain business as usual.

“It’s not a lot of overhead (and) it’s not a lot of risk involved in that we didn’t buy a lot of equipment or anything to go with it,” Cuff said.

With the low costs associated with running the business, Cuff said he also wanted to use it as an opportunity to give back. In 2019, he started a nonprofit, RENEW Employment Services to offer job training, financial literacy courses and other life resources to his employees, many of whom face barriers to finding and retaining a job.

Cuff packs Burger Love Cincy orders alongside his employees.

For the past few years though, Cuff said he hasn’t been able to invest in that side of the business as much as he had hoped.

“There are a lot of low margins in the restaurant business,” he said. 

Now he’s hoping if Burger Love Cincy catches on, its profits can serve as a dedicated funding source for RENEW. 

“You know these burgers enable us to care for our team that we haven’t been able to do before,” Cuff said. “It’s real things that can help our team get from point a to point b as they try to like move the needle in their lives.”

Burger Love Cincy opened at the end of January and runs 3-10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.