Born from a passion for American soul food and full of quirky, larger than life personality, Absurd Bird is a brand that is proud to be different. With four locations opened within one year and no signs of slowing down yet, Absurd Bird needed an EPOS system that could grow with their business. Read on to find out why they picked Lightspeed.
Meet Absurd Bird
“The ethos of our brand is ‘chicken by birth, crazy by nature’ ” laughs Norbert Swierad, Operations Manager for Absurd Bird. “We celebrate the difference and that’s what Absurd Bird is about.” It’s certainly clear to any visitor to this quirky American diner that Absurd Bird delivers these values with gusto.
"Coming through the doors, you'll feel like you're in this lively Deep South barn. Great bluegrass music is pumping through the speakers.” An eclectic mix of Americana — from neon bar signs to Mardi Gras masks — adorn the walls of the spacious Spitalfields location. The ambiance is buzzing and guests can expect a warm welcome. “Our staff are fun and they love what they do. They’re happy, friendly human beings that will make your day.” says Norbert. “They're probably even going to have a shot of moonshine with you!”
The menu is a mix of soul food classics; chicken wings, tower burgers and roast chicken, paired with a moonshine-themed cocktail list and their speciality, East London-brewed Absurd Lager.
“There’s a lot to really get passionate about — flavours, textures — we're really proud of what we serve,” says Head of Food Operations Andrew Hazel. “We take the real flavours from the Deep South, put chicken into the mix and we put our absurd twist on it!”
“We've been told many times that our food is very Instagrammable,” says Norbert proudly. It’s easy to see why; the Absurd Bird menu is a feast for both the eyes and the appetite.
“Many guests have heard about us on Instagram. They’ve seen amazing pictures, they've probably got a bit hungry and decided to pop in!” he grins.
Indeed, with their brand amassing over 19,000 Instagram followers since they started, it’s clear to see that a combination of great service, good looking food and some clever marketing is really paying off. “I think the food industry in the UK is bang on trend at the moment,” says Andrew. “There’s a lot of passion around food. People are more educated around what they like and the places to go and eat.”
When it comes to crowd pleasers, there’s one stand out winner.
“We're famous for our Chicken and Waffles.” says Norbert. “If I run a report [in Lightspeed] from any of our sites, it's the number one selling dish — and it's number one for a reason! Who doesn't like a fresh, in-house made waffle topped with amazing and succulent fried chicken breast topped with maple syrup?”
We can’t argue with that.
Growing a multiple location restaurant business
Every site has its own personality and each recreates a distinct element of the American Deep South. “We wanted to create a brand that could grow into multiple locations without feeling like yet another chain on the market,” says Norbert.
The Spitalfields location is themed to tell the story of a pair of escaped jailbirds. As Norbert reveals, “You can see that it's a restaurant that serves bird, but you can’t see the bird itself. You can see the clues to the bird, like the empty cages, the binoculars and footprints. You can't actually see the bird until it's on your plate!”
In New York City’s Soho neighborhood, the restaurant is themed around street food with a secret moonshine speakeasy. Whereas the Bath location is New Orleans themed, complete with mezzanines, balconies and a central, Mardi Gras inspired bar.
The challenge of running multiple locations across the UK meant that Norbert needed visibility on each restaurant’s operations. “In a world of independent hospitality, where we don’t have our own offices, it’s so important to be able to access data via mobile.” he says. As a cloud-based EPOS system, Lightspeed allows Norbert to access the information he needs from anywhere.
“It’s very easy to manipulate different menus and add things to it, change the prices and change the promotions,” says Norbert. “And from my perspective of how the businesses are performing, I can just log in and with the click of a button see what happens in Bath and how many tables are open in Exeter and that's amazing.”
Improving the customer experience
Rather than simply being a tool to take orders, Norbert knew that a modern EPOS system could become part of the experience for his diners. As he explains, ”I wanted a system that is easy to use, that is flexible and won’t frustrate my team members.”
With a young, millennial team already familiar with iOS apps, Norbert found that he could reduce the training down to practically zero. “Pen and paper is obsolete! We don’t use that any more. Every floor server will have an iPad in their pocket and whilst they interact with the customer, they can guide them through our menu, recommend their favourites and also show our guests what particular dishes look like.”
The benefits don’t stop at the tableside though. Lightspeed Restaurant automates the order taking process so that orders are sent directly to the kitchen from the iPad. “Having the right technology in place drastically reduces human error and greatly improves guest satisfaction. You’re not writing things down. It’s at the click of a finger,” says Andrew.
What does the future have in store for Absurd Bird?
“We’ve just bought a food truck which I’m really excited about!” says Andrew. Because Lightspeed Restaurant runs on an iPad, a food truck makes for a seamless addition to Absurd Bird’s business plan.
With openings in Newcastle and Glasgow also planned and a couple of other locations in development, it seems Absurd Bird has really taken flight!