A visit home to his native Wichita is what’s leading Lone Star Steakhouse founder Dennis Thompson to bring his latest restaurant concept to the Waterfront.
Thompson, former Wichitan Doug Glendenning, and a private New York equity firm own 23 Firebirds Wood Fired Grills and have six more under construction. Thompson, who founded the company in 2000 in Charlotte, N.C., planned to go to Oklahoma City and Tulsa next but changed his mind.
“I happened to be in Wichita for a class reunion,” he says.
While here, Thompson toured the former Brooks Brothers store at the Waterfront development at 13th and Webb Road.
The 7,650-square-foot space is on the corner of the retail section of the Waterfront and is known for its decorative domed roof.
“It’s the most prominent spot in the retail center,” says the Waterfront’s Stephen Clark II.
Glendenning, the former president of Lone Star, calls the Waterfront “one of the best areas in the greater Wichita area for sure.”
“I used to live just a couple of blocks from there, so I know that area very well,” he says.
Glendenning is a founder of Firebirds, too, but he says Thompson really created it.
Thompson’s Aspen home inspired what initially was a Colorado lodge theme.
“Over time … it’s evolved,” Glendenning says. “It’s a lot less Colorado feel and more just kind of upscale casual.”
Thompson says he wanted to start a concept that was more upscale than an Outback Steakhouse or similar restaurants but not quite as high end as a Morton’s or a Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
“The theme is based around steaks, but we’re not perceived necessarily as a steakhouse,” Thompson says.
There are lots of wood-fired dishes, many of which have a Southwestern flair.
Glendenning, who is based in Utah, says Firebirds has a higher quality of food and service than an average chain restaurant.
“I think Wichita will really appreciate that,” he says. “The concept is really sensational.”
There’s an open-air kitchen in Firebirds, which will seat 220, and lots of stone and wood.
“They’re a restaurant probably comparable to Red Rock,” Clark says.
There also will be a large bar area integrated into the restaurant.
Clark says Thompson is “known for developing concepts with … lively bars. He gets good bar business because the atmosphere lends itself to that.”
Thompson has been involved in the Fox & Hound concept as well, which also is at the Waterfront. He thinks Firebirds, which will open in May or June, will be a good fit for Wichita.
“We’re both from there (and) have a lot of friends and family there,” Glendenning says.
“It’s going to be great for the center,” Clark says. “We obviously think this will help us secure some additional tenants.”
Clark says Firebirds is complementary to other Waterfront restaurants, such as P.F. Chang’s, Abuelo’s and Bonefish Grill.
“It fits great with the restaurant activity that we already have,” he says. “One of the neat things about this is they are going to be open for lunch as well … which will be good for the center.”
Thompson says he’s a fan of smaller markets such as Wichita.
“Wichita has always been a very good restaurant market,” he says. “I’m looking forward to coming back to the opening.”
You don’t say
“There are people still here in Wichita that don’t know we exist.”
– Doug Nunamaker of Atlas MD on national attention the company has received for its concierge medicine on a “ Here & Now” radio segment Monday and in a Bloomberg Businessweek article last week
Carrie Rengers first reported these items on her blog. Be among the first to get her business scoops at blogs.kansas.com/haveyouheard.