Reflections of a Restaurateur

Mike Cunningham of BRU Burger Bar

An exclusive eskca interview with Mike Cunningham (founder, CEO, and owner) of Cunningham Restaurant Group, parent company of BRU Burger Bar, which was honored in our:
Tell us your origin story. How did you come to be involved with BRU Burger Bar?

Local is best. And for us, local starts with you and me: neighborhoods and communities where we live, work, and play. Since 1997, Cunningham Restaurant Group (CRG) has created an array of unforgettable dining experiences for guests. From its humble beginnings in Brownsburg, Indiana to a growing tri-state restaurant group, CRG represents a steady beat of expansion and innovation fueled by a commitment to community impact.

The hamburger is over 100 years old and BRU Burger Bar is Cunningham’s ode to our love for the burger. The first BRU Burger Bar opened in December 2011 on Mass Ave, offering gourmet hamburgers in an upscale casual environment paired with craft beers. BRU has proven to be an extremely successful concept and eight additional BRU locations have been added in Lexington, Kentucky (2013), Carmel, Indiana (2015), Downtown Cincinnati, Ohio (2015), Evansville, Indiana (2016), Plainfield, Indiana (2017), Noblesville, Indiana (2018), Westerville, Ohio (2018), and Fort Mitchell, Kentucky (2018.) Kicking off 2019, Cunningham will open the tenth Bru Burger Bar in Lafayette, Indiana (2019.). Even during a pandemic, we still opened BRU Burger Bar locations, with the addition of BRU Keystone (2020) and the transition of Livery South Bend to BRU South Bend (2020). In 2021, we added the 13th BRU location with BRU Brownsburg.

What were the biggest hurdles you encountered in your journey?

Biggest hurdle was to get the company established enough to attract the highest level of talent in the industry, bringing that expertise to our mission of being the restaurant company of choice for the communities we serve.

What does the future hold for you and Bru Burger Bar?

Bru is growing with a plan of 3-4 units per year

What are your thoughts on the food scene in Indianapolis?

Indianapolis has come a long way with the growth of independent restaurants. Indy has embraced fresh new ideas and I think we will see continued growth and potential for creative, well executed concepts throughout the market.

What’s your best advice for aspiring restaurateurs?

Work hard and be kind.

Our readers love recommendations! What’s your favorite item at BRU Burger Bar?

Bru favorite items are the Turkey Burger, Bourbon Burger, and the Valencia Salad.


For more exclusive interviews, see our full Reflections of a Restaurateur series