Chef. Art. Pour. The Simple Vision Leading to Burntwood Tavern's Success

The first Burntwood Tavern restaurant, located in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Image: Burtnwood Tavern

“Chef. Art. Pour.” This is how Burntwood Tavern describes their story. When guests enter one of the nine Ohio locations their immediate impression isn’t that they’ve entered a chain restaurant. Instead, the concept feels like an independent operation.

Old barns are sourced to build out the interiors, speaking to the art portion of the chain’s vision. A rustic atmosphere created through the use of weathered, reclaimed barn wood, hand-hewn beams, hand-blown glass, custom lighting, and pounded copper bar tops envelops diners and bargoers. The original 5 locations come with unique histories, complete with “insider facts” shared on the chain’s website.

The food menu is built entirely around chef-driven offerings. Dishes are approachable with simple and clean flavors. However, it’s clear that Burntwood’s food menu was created to differentiate the chain from other brands. As Heather Lalley explained during her Technomic Hot Concepts presentation for Q2 of this year, the bar-focused chain offers diners the premium items they have come to expect from upscale taverns.

Burntwood’s focus on the bar is immediately evident. “Pour” being one of the fundamental elements of their vision, the tavern’s bar program centers around vodkas infused in-house. Those infusions play an integral role during the Saturday and Sunday brunch programs. Guests are encouraged to choose an infusion – jalapeño and garlic, pickle or bacon to name just three – select their tomato juice and heat, shake themselves a Bloody Mary, and build their own skewer, tying together the bar and food programs. Again, upscale but wholly approachable.

Burntwood Tavern Signature Mule - Chef. Art. Pour.
Attribution/Copyrights: Burntwood Tavern

The cocktail program itself doesn’t simply focus on signature cocktails made with handcrafted infusions. Draught and bottle beer selections continue the theme of upscale approachability, effectively striking a balance between mainstream, craft, local and seasonal brews. Burntwood’s commitment to hiring and training exciting bartenders keeps guests coming back, as does the chain’s daily three-hour happy hour that features half-price appetizers, $3 bottled beers, $4 Tavern wines, and $5 signature cocktails.

Burntwood Tavern can certainly be seen as a disruptor. The brand’s vision, unique buildouts and aesthetics, and impressive bar program certainly circumvent some of the expectations and perceptions many have of chains. However, they are still a chain, and what their vision and success speaks to is guest desires for unique, immersive experiences and premium selections.

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