A new fast-casual burger and frozen custard restaurant will open in Muskego next month under a familiar name.
Milk Can Hamburgers & Custard has built a following across the greater Milwaukee area since launching its mobile food truck last fall, but the concept is now planting roots with a stand-alone location, slated to open mid-December at S73 W16770 Janesville Road.
The Milk Can concept is known for Wisconsin staples like old-fashioned hamburgers, cheese curds, onion rings, shakes and custard. The food truck, which has popped up in Wauwatosa, Bay View, Hales Corners, Muskego and downtown Milwaukee, also sells breakfast sandwiches and Anodyne Coffee. The menu at its permanent location won't be much different.
"We started having conversations about opening a classic hamburger and custard shack a few years ago," said co-owner Ryan Oschmann, a Muskego native.
[caption id="attachment_515800" align="alignright" width="370"] Photo credit: Milk Can Hamburgers & Custard[/caption]
He and partners Laurie Oschmann and Andy Meinen are the operators behind Muskego's popular lakeside restaurant, Bass Bay Brewhouse, as well as several sister concepts under the Northern Grace Hospitality umbrella. Among them is Milk Bottle Bakery, which once had plans to open as a tenant at 3rd Street Market Hallin downtown Milwaukee.
The trio brought on Jared Eggener, former global retail finance manager at Trek Bicycle, to bring Milk Can's brick-and-mortar restaurant to life.
Oschmann said his connection with Eggener goes back to when they helped opened longtime burger joint AJ Bombers in downtown Milwaukee.
Milk Can is leasing a 2,400-square-foot former Arby's restaurant building with a drive-thru -- that was a huge draw while searching for potential sites amid the ongoing pandemic and its strain on sit-down dining business, said Oschmann. Plus, the space didn't require much of a build out, so the group was able to expedite the timeline. Plans were approved by the Muskego Plan Commission earlier this week.
"It was pretty important to get this location secured and to get the new business open before winter," Oschmann said. "This winter for every restaurant is a pretty scary road ahead with a whole lot of unknowns."
One big question mark now with COVID-19 cases on the rise is when it will be safe to welcome diners inside the restaurant.
"At this point, we're leaning toward potentially not opening the dining room itself until spring just because we don't know what's going to be what," he said.
But there are business risks to launching a new dine-in concept initially as drive-thru-only. Oschmann said he's worried customers may get accustomed to the carryout format and won't give the on-premise experience a chance once it's up and running. The hope is that the Milk Can food truck has generated enough support across the Milwaukee area that people will be willing to make the drive for a good burger.
Milk Can's restaurant location will keep its existing food truck staff employed once it's too cold to operate the mobile unit. Plus, it will allow Oschmann and his team to move employees from Bass Bay when business slows down, in order to "keep as many people employed as we can."
Once warmer weather rolls around, Milk Can will make use of the property's existing 22-seat outdoor patio, with working plans to build a second patio area based on demand.
Summer plans also include stationing the Milk Can Scoop Shop Custard Trailer in the parking lot to support high volume orders for custard, sundaes and malts.