Steven Banks, B.S. '18
Co-Founder, Owner of Döner Bros
February 11, 2020
For Steven Banks, B.S.’18, becoming a restaurateur of authentic European döner was a far stretch from his early aspirations of having a professional basketball career.
“It’s always better to be nimble than right,” Banks says. “I went out into the world thinking I would be a pro athlete, and then some big finance guy. But suddenly, I found myself owning a restaurant and I had never worked in food a day in my life!”
Banks is the co-founder of Döner Bros, a popular Baltimore food establishment, known for its Turkish kebabs and traditional street food. For those unfamiliar with döner kebab: the word döner is Turkish meaning “to rotate.” The term was later adopted to describe the seasoned meat stacked in the shape of an inverted cone that slowly turns as it cooks on a vertical rotisserie. The outer layer is shaved vertically into thin juicy slices and served hot in many different delicious variations.
During a trip to Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, Banks and his long-time friend, Alex Politsch, fell in love with döner. Together, they decided to bring the treat back to the states and in 2015, they began their entrepreneurial journey with a bright orange food truck and a little business savvy.
In 2018, just one year after their venture began, Banks and Politsch opened their first storefront in the Charles Village neighborhood of Baltimore and project a 2020 opening of store number two, at the 1405 Point building in Harbor Point.
"The new Döner Brös concept in Harbor Point will embody all the greatest elements of our story," said Banks. "In addition to great food our brand has always been about community, inclusion, and light-hearted fun. The unique mixture of residential, corporate office space, and hip hangout spots makes Harbor Point one of the coolest neighborhoods in Baltimore – all these factors provide us with the perfect opportunity to show our full potential as a growing brand. We're simply ecstatic!"
As the company continues to expand, Banks credits his alma mater for developing skills in entrepreneurship.
“Before arriving at UBalt, I had a few starts and stops in my career. I’d gone to school in Boston for a few years and came back home to take some classes at CCBC in Essex. It wasn’t until I enrolled at UBalt and took an entrepreneurship course that I’d found that spark I’d been looking for,” Banks explains. “I remember one assignment required us to create an app for a venture capitalist and my professor was really impressed with the idea and the business plan I’d proposed. From that experience, I learned I had a knack for entrepreneurship and truly enjoyed solving problems.”
With the new expansion, Döner Brös plans to include beer and wine in an open-concept, German beer hall style setting. The company prides itself on promoting an inclusive, friendly, fun vibe that is inviting and respectful of everyone.
Looking forward "we have crazy ambitions," says Banks. "After we build our brand here in America, we then want to go overseas and use their existing infrastructure to convert döner shops into Döner Brös".