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BevX 2023: Firebirds Feels The Grill of Victory

Given that Firebirds Wood Fired Grill sees itself as “the master of fire,” it makes sense that the casual dining chain wanted to bring the wood-grilled flavors and experience into its beverage program as well. Firebirds, the BevX winner for Single-Concept Restaurant, has done just that in several novel ways.

For one, the restaurant chars fruits such as orange and pineapple on its wood-fired grills before juicing them for cocktails. It also uses the grilled fruit to garnish drinks.

Firebirds brings smoke into drinks in a few ways, such as smoked thyme sprig and cinnamon stick garnishes, house-smoked honey and even a torched marshmallow. This past year the chain equipped its bartenders with hand-held torches to smoke the garnishes, says director of beverage and special projects Lisa Kozloff.

“The Wood Fired Grill is our signature. That’s what we want to be known for — the flames, the char and the smoke,” Kozloff says. The grilled fruits and smoked garnishes help bring that flavor, aroma and visual appeal to the bar. The efforts are also part of the restaurant’s commitment to premium and scratch-made ingredients in the bar, as well as the kitchen.

One popular drink, the Fuego MojitaRita, uses grilled jalepeno pepper and mint for a little extra spicy flavor. Another seasonal cocktail is the Torched Pineapple, made with grilled pineapple puree, lime and a house-made hot honey. “It still has backbone of a Margarita but has got a little extra in there for the guests that are more discerning for a craft cocktail,” says Kozloff.

The marketing team worked to increase awareness and frequency for the seasonal cocktail programs through digital and social channels. Photography played a huge role in the success of these efforts, which helped drive a 15% increase in bar sales year over year. These sales increases were paired with decreases in overall cost of sales due to strict menu engineering.

Firebirds revamped its bartender and bar manager training to help drive additional sales through speed of execution and guest satisfaction. Bar managers earn the Hospitality Beverage Specialist Certificate from the Society of Wine Educators.

What are guests looking for when the come to the bar? Primarily cocktails, Kozloff says, and interest in tequila and mezcal has been strong.

The company this past year moved the home office into a new location in Charlotte, NC; the space has a full research and development kitchen and bar, says Kozloff. She’s part of a Menus of the Future executive committee that travels to other cities to visit the hot restaurants and bars and look for ideas and inspiration.

Firebirds has found that customers’ level of expectation is much higher in the post-Covid climate. Guests want a fantastic experience, and they don’t have a lot of patience or understanding if things aren’t perfect, she notes.

“Making sure that we are living up to that level of expectation has been very important to us as we’ve moved through Covid.”

The post BevX 2023: Firebirds Feels The Grill of Victory appeared first on Cheers.

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