Restaurant Development & Design

MAR-APR 2018.

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M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 8 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • 5 5 FIREBIRDS IMAGINES THE MODERN STEAKHOUSE This polished-casual concept is tossing aside the stiff feel of traditional steakhouses in search of openness and energy and a young customer base. PROJECT PROFILE BY TOBY WEBER I f you were asked to describe Millennials, there's just no way that "formal" or "stodgy" would be words that come to mind. It's a generation that's famously open and frank, and one that doesn't value ceremony. While plenty of restaurant concepts are reworking their businesses to appeal to these younger guests, the Millennial mindset poses a particular challenge to the traditional steakhouse. With its low lighting, its reserved atmosphere and a dining experience bordering on ritual, this niche runs counter to how many Millennials live and what they look for. Recognizing this, Charlotte, N.C.- based Firebirds Wood Fired Grill recently introduced a new prototype designed to appeal to this generation and younger. "We wanted to make sure we continued to capture the next gen- eration: not only Millennials, but the generation following those folks as well. We didn't want to feel like Mom and Dad's old stodgy steakhouse. And while we feel that we are not, we wanted to make sure by making this adjustment," says Vice President of Marketing Stephen Loftis. What Millennials Want In the eyes of the Firebirds project team, there's a clear link between what Mil- lennials are after and what they aren't. Formal and stiff is out; energy and experience is in. "One of the things the younger generation wants is a place to go and be part of activity. Just showing the inside out was important for Firebirds in order to attract all generations, really," says Mimi Williams, associate partner at StarrDesign, which served as the architect and interior design firm for this project. Communicating the activity at Firebirds, then, was one of the prototype's design priorities. This starts from the outside. While the chain's old design had windows on just two sides, the new design has large windows on three sides. These provide potential guests driving or walking by with a clear view of the interior and all activity. Other brand elements are also com- municated with the building's exterior. Fire and flight are two of the restaurant's themes. The outside of the building, then, showcases the restaurant's chim- ney (home of the exterior signage) along with charred bricks and three exterior lanterns. In combination with wooden overhangs and illuminated wood soffits, such elements "give this glowing warmth to the building, which we think makes it more approachable," Williams says. The outdoor patio includes accordion windows that open completely as well as a two-sided fireplace that's shared with the interior bar.

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