Burruss was in love with the idea, and it was not as if she hadn’t heard it before. Everyone around her had spent years saying her family needs a restaurant. Her mother, Joyce Jones, is the youngest of 14 children, and a majority of them can "really throw down in the kitchen," Burruss says.
Bertha and her aunt Nora both have professional kitchen backgrounds, having worked at Piccadilly, a cafeteria-style concept. They also worked with food in the school system. One of her uncles was a chef and the only person to truly operate a restaurant. After he passed, no one followed in his footsteps, but it was always talked about. So when Tucker brought it up once again, Burruss knew it was time to strike.
Old Lady Gang debuted in downtown Atlanta in 2016, less than a mile from Mercedes-Benz Stadium and State Farm Arena, the homes of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons and the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, respectively. The name of the restaurant is dedicated to the three matriarchs in Burruss’s family—Joyce, Bertha, and Nora—who insert their special recipes. Other relatives work as employees, and some menu items are dedicated to family members, like Mama Joyce’s BBQ Rib Tips, Aunt Bertha’s Fried Chicken, Kandi’s Honey Glazed Blackened Salmon, and Todd’s Crispy Salmon Bites. Joyce, Bertha, and Nora don’t work in the kitchen, but they do often hang around the restaurant, greet customers, and find time to boss workers around, Burruss jokes.
The menu was a collaboration between the family and a professional chef, who tweaked the recipes to fit in a full-service kitchen.
"We told him the things that our family made that people loved, and then he tweaked those things," Burruss says. "That’s the other thing—when you're cooking at home you can take your time, but when you have to get the food out, it's a different process. So he helped us streamline some of those things and also helped us find a couple of things that were just very specific to our restaurant that people could come to the Old Lady Gang for what they won't get anywhere else."
Moving the restaurant from theory to reality wasn’t easy. Burruss and Tucker wanted to own the building, so they dealt with the buildout and worked with the City of Atlanta to make sure everything was up to code. And not everyone believed in them. During this process, Tucker met with a restaurateur and asked if he wanted to become a partner in Old Lady Gang. Tucker was turned down, but that didn’t deter him. The operator allowed Tucker to shadow him while he opened a new location. Eventually, the restaurant owner served as a consultant for Tucker and Burruss as they rolled out Old Lady Gang, which opened to lines down the block and around the corner.
The restaurant has since debuted two more locations. One is located 10 minutes from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, while the other is in State Farm Arena.
Burruss credits a lot of Old Lady Gang’s success to Tucker’s experience as a television producer and production manager. She approaches the restaurant with a more unrestrained attitude. But Tucker has always held firm, noting that Old Lady Gang must remain within its budget. It’s to the point where friends now ask for his advice on sustaining their businesses.
"If it wasn't for Todd's expertise and budget, we would've gone out of business a long time ago, and it's not because we don't make the money," Burruss says. "A lot of restaurants out there are making lots of money, but it's all in how you spend your money and food costs and labor."
Tucker also doubled as the decorator. He describes Old Lady Gang as having a rustic, Southern, and homey feel. The restaurant features wood, exposed brick, subway tiles, and lights powered by Edison bulbs. The goal was to replicate what he felt at those Sunday gatherings. But Tucker says there’s a "cool little chic feel" inside the store as well. It’s visited by families and celebrities alike, such as Will Ferrell, Whoopi Goldberg, and Beyonce’s mother, Tina Knowles.