How Firebirds Is Managing Its Kitchen Consistency

The brand delivers bold flavor despite ongoing industry challenges. 

According to the National Restaurant Association’s State of the Industry report from February 2023, 89 percent of operators cite labor costs as a significant challenge. On top of that, 62 percent of operators say they do not have enough staff to keep up with demand. 

This has hit kitchens especially hard. Being understaffed—or relying on cooks with fewer skills than was once the standard—can lead to inconsistent output. In a landscape where consumers are dining out less due to inflation, it’s as important as ever to ensure each diner enjoys an exceptional, consistent dining experience that makes them want to come back for more. 

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill is familiar with these challenges. The full-service brand, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, has made its name as an elevated concept that has gracefully scaled its footprint to 56 locations across 20 different states. Firebirds is laser-focused on creating menu items with big flavor that can be executed the same at a location in Richmond, Virginia, as they will be in Tucson, Arizona.

“We are a scratch kitchen, so ensuring every recipe is adhered to and that we taste the finished product is critical and a real challenge,” says Chef Steve Sturm, senior vice president of food and beverage at Firebirds Wood Fired Grill. “Hiring, training, and retaining our great staff is also a priority and a challenge.” 

Here’s a look at a few ways that Firebirds and other full-service restaurants are overcoming ongoing labor challenges to ensure plate-to-plate and store-to-store consistency. 

Training and Management Structure

The hospitality industry has fast been adding back workers it lost during the early stages of the pandemic. Of course, this brings with it a different set of challenges. Many kitchen employees may be new to the industry, or are coming back to it after years away. That means training and management structures are critical components in generating a consistent dining experience. 

This is an area where Firebirds excels. “We have great management,” Sturm says. “Every restaurant has three chefs that oversee the quality and consistency of our output by using our systems that we have been perfecting for more than 20 years. We also have a detailed training program that uses both e-learning and hands-on components.” 

Prepared, Versatile Ingredients

Many brands have consolidated their menus in order to reduce costs and operational complexities. The problem is that this also eats into profit—and may turn off diners looking for variety. 

“As restaurants attempt to deal with a short-staffed situation, they are reducing the size of their menu and cutting back on the number of dishes they serve, thus lowering profits,” says Scott Adair, director of culinary at SupHerb Farms. “That’s why our operator customers are requesting partially- and fully-prepared ingredients from us.”

As Adair points out, many brands—including Firebirds—are turning to vendors like SupHerb Farms for the promise of versatile ingredients that deliver bold flavors while reducing kitchen complexities. For example, one SKU that Firebirds has relied on for more than 15 years is a proprietary herb blend that comes from SupHerb Farms, a vendor that provides IQF herbs, frozen specialty vegetables and culinary blends, pastes and sauces with bold flavor. Firebirds uses the herb blend as a rub for proteins. The restaurant chain also sources a salsa base and several pastes from SupHerb Farms, like an Aji-amarillo pesto that serves as the base for one pasta sauce, taking some of the pressure off each kitchen’s staff. 

“These products are helpful because they make adding flavor to our ‘mother sauces’ far easier and more consistent,” Sturm says. “SupHerb Farms is always working on new on-trend, bold flavors that line up with our development perfectly.” 

Farm-Fresh Flavor

In short, supplier partners like SupHerb Farms can help brands of all sizes deliver a flavorful, consistent experience to their guests. For Sturm and his team at Firebirds, that’s been a key component to the way they ensure consistent output from each kitchen—even in the face of a largely unprecedented labor crisis. 

“SupHerb Farms uses only the best ingredients,” Sturm says. “They do extensive testing on raw ingredients to ensure they pass very high grading standards before making a batch of the product. They also have a very talented culinary and R&D team that will work with you to develop items that match your concept.” 

For more on adding flavor without additional labor, visit the SupHerb Farms website