Firebirds International LLC has debuted a new prototype for the Firebirds Wood Fired Grill chain with this month’s opening of its second restaurant in Florida, the company’s head of marketing said.
Stephen Loftis, vice president of marketing for the Charlotte, N.C.-based casual-dining chain said the Nov. 1 opening in Jacksonville, Fla., marks an advancement for the 44-unit brand.
“It’s an evolution of where we’ve gone,” Loftis said in an interview. “We want to appeal to all generations. We’ve enhanced the exterior with floor-to-ceiling windows with brick on the outside. The interior has different colors, textures and artwork.”
The Jacksonville prototype, which occupies new construction near The Strand just outside downtown, covers a slightly smaller footprint than the preceding prototype, which had been the brand’s template for about a dozen years. The restaurant is about 6,355 square feet, about 150 square feet smaller. It seats about 242, which is about 10 seats fewer than past restaurants, he said.
“We don’t want to be the old, dark steakhouse of your parents,” Loftis said. “We’ll take learnings from this and make changes going forward.”
Aspects of the new design are being incorporated into the third Florida restaurant, which is expected to open in Pembroke Pines, Fla., in December. The company has an earlier restaurant in Winter Park, Fla.
The Jacksonville restaurant features an expanded “Fire Bar” area with guest seating and foodservice. A glass-walled fireplace separates the bar from the patio, which has retractable doors that allow for all-season use.
“We operate in a lot of areas where they can be full season with heaters or fans,” he said. All but one of the 44 Firebirds locations have patios across the units in 18 states, Loftis said.
The enlarged bar area has gradually become a gathering place after work and weekends for groups, he said.
Loftis said Charlotte-based StarrDesign group oversaw design and construction of the new unit, which features an overhauled décor, light fixtures, booths and the material on the seats in the dining room.
Over the past year and half, Loftis said the Firebirds best-selling menu item has shifted.
“For a lot of years, our wood-fired-grill six-ounce filet was our No. 1 seller. But just over the past year and a half, our wood-fired-grill salmon has overtaken that,” he said. Chicken salad and burgers also sell well, he said.
The blended dinner and lunch per-person check average is about $27, with a mix of 70 percent food and 30 percent beverage, Loftis said.
Firebirds ranked No. 2 in the recent Nation’s Restaurant News “Next 20” report. The company had domestic sales of $143.9 million in the 2016 fiscal year ended in December, up from $135.6 million in the preceding year.
The company, which was founded in 2000, said the new prototype updates the brand for several more years.
“This brings us into the current generation,” Loftis said.
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