Only 10 months into service, Romacorp’s TR Fire Grill had the confidence to bring its new concept to the global stage.
Most owners and chefs of debut restaurants—even those that are corporate—have modest ambitions for their projects: They simply hope to make it through that first, all-important, establishing year. After that, they can generally think about reviewing the concept, adding menu items, physical expansion, franchising, and more.
Romacorp Inc., the parent company of TR Fire Grill, which launched late last fall in Winter Park, Florida, is not typical. Only 10 weeks into service, Stephen Judge, president and chief executive officer, announced plans to take the American craft food-and-beverage concept to Hawaii, and then overseas to Malaysia, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom (U.K.).
The decision doesn’t come without serious consideration, however. For starters, the casual, farm-to-table bistro, which includes downhome-made-sophisticated items such as a waffle dusted with white Wisconsin Cheddar and bacon topped with fried chicken and agave syrup, has already received some inspiring validation. After being open only a month, it won OpenTable Diners’ Choice awards in four categories: overall cuisine, service, ambiance, and American food. Additionally, TR Fire Grill was ranked first for Overall Cuisine in Orlando—an enormous market of which Winter Park is only a small part—by OpenTable, and is on the list of best restaurants in Winter Park.
“At first, we didn’t realize how strong the award really was,” chief marketing officer Jim Rogers admits. “When we did, we got really excited.”
Rogers says that the team, which tested menu items and trained extensively before the launch, has also seen steady growth in sales and amazing response from their guests, from whom they’ve been soliciting feedback since the beginning. And the commendations have been consistent with the purported objective, which was to prepare artisanal fare from regional sources ranging from Brooks Tropicals in Homestead to Wish Farms in Plant City, and credit them with pride on the menu.
“The menu is diverse and innovative but done in a way that people understand,” Rogers says. “Our chef likes to say that you don’t have to Google our ingredients. He’s not combining things just to combine them, but taking things people know about and giving them a twist.” For instance, the Salmon & Zoodles main course uses zucchini to replace pasta under a hearty fish fillet and weaves in piquant sweety drop peppers, asparagus, green apple slices, and Feta cheese. For more Mediterranean flair, it’s tied together with a pistachio Romesco sauce.