Executive Chef Steve Redzikowski and Beverage Director Bryan Dayton are known for Denver’s Acorn and Boulder’s OAK at fourteenth, acclaimed restaurants that capture their dedication to thoughtful, eclectic American fare and a devotion to fine-dining principles honed while Steve was at the two Michelin-starred Cyrus Restaurant and the Little Nell Hotel. This January, the duo opened Brider — French for “tying,” as in tying meats before roasting them — a fast-casual rotisserie concept that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Their move is in line with an industry-wide trend that has seen a growing number of high-end chefs open pioneering fast-food concepts. Since Tom Colicchio reinvented the sandwich with ‘wichcraft and Danny Meyer blew the world away with his griddled burgers and crinkle-cut fries at Shake Shack, the trend has only mushroomed.
Recent fast food converts include James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef Mid-Atlantic” award winner Jose Garces, who unveiled the casual taqueria Buena Onda last year; Chris Jaeckle, primarily known for his Italian cooking at All’Onda, who launched the fast-casual Uma Temakeria; and San Francisco’s Joshua Skenes, of Saison, who partnered with Umami Burger restaurateur Adam Fleischman to launch a fast-casual Chinese noodle concept, Fat Noodle, where you can eat a two Michelin-starred chef’s recipes for between $6 and $10 per bowl.
Andrea Strong spoke to Steve and Bryan about opening Brider and taking the jump from silver and glass to recycled paper and compostable plastic.
Andrea Strong: Why do this concept now? Was it time for the group to do this or was it the economic environment that inspired you?
Bryan: We have had two full-service restaurants, and I wanted to do something that was more in line with the way I want to eat every day, something that was quick and grab-n-go, but more soulful in terms of the food and the beverage program. I basically talked Steve into doing it.
Steve: He did. It was all his idea!
Was there something that drew you to the rotisserie concept?
Steve: I have always been interested in rotisseries. I love them. We do oven-roasted chicken at Acorn, but this rotisserie is slow and low and self-bastes the meat and makes it super tender. This is a step above in terms of chicken — it’s pretty good.
What sort of research did you do before opening? Did any other concepts did inspire you and if so, how?
Steve: We knew we wanted the rotisserie to be the thread and the focus of the food. We found a gas-powered Rotisol from France that has six motors and can do six skewers at a time. We love it, but it took 10 weeks to be delivered! In terms of research, we did a trip to L.A. to visit healthier quick casual concepts around the tech industry. One of the nicer concepts was the GTA Takeaway. It is different than what we do, but we liked the setup. They don’t have seating, but it was fresh, seasonal, and whatever is popping at the moment. Their sandwiches and salads are changing and vibrant. That’s what really spoke to us.
Bryan: They have a second concept Gjusta, which is their bakery with savory items as well, and those two put together were a big influence on the final idea, in the way that they are chef-driven, soulful food with a thoughtful beverage program. The QSR market is a little more cookie cutter, and we wanted something with personal flare.
We hoped to open a place where even though you are ordering at a register, when you sit down, you know it’s Steve’s food and my beverage program. We see it as a hybrid between a QSR and a bit more thoughtful and hospitality-driven concept.
Sounds like HDQSR, or QSR in HD. Anyway, why do all three meal periods?
Bryan: We are paying rent 24/7, so the more you are open the more chance you have to do volume and make the rent. We don’t do a full breakfast, just pastries and coffee for morning and some grab-n-go hot food. We do our own English muffins for breakfast sandwiches and bagel sandwiches. We also do pretzels stuffed with sausage and gruyere cheese, a few paninis, and farro oatmeal with brown sugar and pecans.
Steve: Lunch starts at 11 a.m. and includes lots of sandwiches and salads made with our rotisserie meats—so there’s a Rotisserie Bahn Mi with paté aioli, pickled carrots, cucumbers, and Thai herbs on a French baguette, and a Rotisserie Leg of Lamb sandwich with tzatziki, harissa, cucumber, pepper relish, and arugula on a ciabatta. Then at 4 p.m. we add our rotisserie entrees—the leg of lamb, chicken, porchetta, and meatballs on polenta, with sides like lemon and chili wilted kale with roasted potatoes and chicken au jus; fried rice with egg, crispy garlic and ginger, sesame, and house kimchi; feta cheese tzatziki with harissa, cucumber and red onion; or couscous with pomegranate, madras curry, jasmine rice, and coconut. Bryan’s beverage program includes wine, beer, house-made cocktails, house-made sodas, kombucha, and nitro coffee, all served on tap.
Wow, that’s not your typical QSR drink list.
Bryan: Thanks. To me it’s not a true QSR. It’s not like we use commercial soda. This is very much a thoughtful driven from program with both beverage and food being truly artisanal.
What’s different about doing a casual place after more of a fine-dining concept? Is it easier or more difficult?
Steve: I’d say it’s just different. The tricky part for us is that we have a pastry counter, and you have to make them ahead and take an educated guess as to how much will sell. That’s something we don’t have a lot of experience with and we are only six weeks in. You don’t want to look cheap and not have anything out there, but you don’t want to go overboard and throw it away, so you want to get a sense of what the demand is and be careful on what to get ahead on. The easier part is that you don’t have to get in 19 ingredients with one dish. We use some of the same sauces and vinaigrettes, but the finished plates here do not need as many components.
Bryan: We also don’t do take out at our other restaurants so that’s a big difference. We had to learn to organize all our containers and packaging. Now we have a whole room of that is just for storage. It’s an entire different thinking process with packing the food up and thinking about how it will travel well.
What about steps of service?
Bryan: We are trying to hone in on the service. We have to unlearn some things and learn some new things. The biggest thing is to try to eliminate confusion for guest and teach them how to order. It’s not as clear as, like, a Chipotle. It took a while to get it together, but we did. And we always begin with a hello and that same welcome as guests leave.
How did you do a business plan given that your previous experience is in full-service dining? How did you work your projections?
Steve: We got help from accountant and got feedback and help from other QSRs like Mod Market and Chipotle. It was definitely a smaller business model than what we had done with the more traditional restaurant.
How has it been received so far?
Steve: Lunches are great, but we are a bit slower than we’d like at dinner. There has been some positive and negative feedback, but that’s everything you do.