For those well-versed in the who’s who of local restaurant savants, Tyre Stuckey should sound familiar. If it doesn’t, it will soon. Before opening Alabaster-based Birds & Burgers, Tyre helmed Zoës Kitchen‘s fifth franchise location in Ponte Vedra, Florida. Showing a natural knack for the fast-casual business, Tyre eventually became vice president of operations for the popular chain, overseeing more than 100 locations. “I loved it. I fell in love with the food industry,” says Tyre, who grew up in Montgomery and developed a deep passion for restaurant management while studying at Auburn University.
In 2015, Tyre decided to return home to Alabama and strike out on his own. Building on his deft restaurant skills acquired over many years, he partnered with Birmingham entrepreneur John Cassimus and opened Miss Dots—a fast-casual restaurant known for its finger-licking fried chicken, collards and decadent pecan pies. The restaurant was a celebration of all things southern. Tyre spent five years growing Miss Dots and then decided to switch lanes again—this time to the drive-thru. Birds & Burgers opened in Alabaster in November 2019, ushering in a new restaurant era for Tyre.
“If you got great food and great service, the people will come,” he says. And they did.
Since opening off Highway 31 in Alabaster, Birds & Burgers has become a local favorite among the community’s many fast-food options. Tyre is quick to point out, however, that his new restaurant concept isn’t your typical fast-food establishment.
“Birds & Burgers has become more of a hybrid between fast casual and fast food. We have regulars,” he says. “I know when (the drive-thru opens) at 10:30 in the morning, I’ll see Mary coming through for her cast iron rice ‘n gravy. For me, coming from the fast-casual business, I’m used to that. I like seeing people two to three times a week.”
Faced with the challenge of opening a fast-food-style restaurant in an already saturated market, Tyre knew he had to differentiate himself. This didn’t daunt the restaurant vet, though. The real creativity and ingenuity happened in March of this year, he says, when an unexpected pandemic decided to drive through and force many restaurants to remake their model in order to fit new customer needs.
Tyre didn’t miss a step.
Thanks to an already diverse menu (as the name suggests, you’ll find both both birds and burgers at the restaurant), keeping business afloat became a matter of executing one simple strategy—listening to the customer. “We just put our heads down and put our thinking caps on and made it happen,” he says of the overnight decisions that happened in the wake of COVID-19.
Value, variety and convenience became the Birds & Burgers niche. Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, Birds & Burgers focuses on carefully sourced ingredients and convenience. From the classic hand-pattied burger with cheddar and bacon to snack wraps and salads, the establishment prides itself on offering a little bit of everything. It’s hard to say which menu item is a clear favorite, Tyre admits. Some days it’s the burger, which comes sandwiched between fresh, local bread. Other days, the restaurant can’t seem to assemble enough snack wraps, which come in a number of varieties like grilled chicken, spicy chicken and chicken salad.
“I really felt like if I could take a fast food menu, but give it more fast-casual offerings, then I would have a competitive advantage,” the owner says.
Judging by the amount of first-name-basis customers who count on the restaurant for quick, fresh meals, the future of Birds & Burgers looks bright. If Birds & Burgers can not only survive—but thrive—through 2020, the next natural step suggests expansion. Franchising, Tyre says, isn’t far off.
“The rule of thumb for what I do is that if you are really careful with the ingredients, the speed and the service, you’re going to have a winning recipe. No pun intended,” Tyre says with a smile. “It’s a recipe for success.”
What to Order
New to Birds & Burgers? Here’s a breakdown of Tyre Stuckey’s favorites.
For the family: “You’ve got to try the herb roasted chicken, which comes with 10 pieces of perfectly roasted chicken with rosemary, thyme and oregano. It comes with cheddar garlic biscuits. And you have to get the mac and cheese—it’s homemade. And then the classic salad with the homemade ranch. It’s phenomenal.”
For the busy professional: “For an individual, my all-time favorite is the spicy grilled chicken plate. It’s a perfectly roasted chicken breast with rosemary, thyme and oregano on a bed of scratch-made rice with a classic salad and homemade ranch. It’s my all-time favorite.”
For date night: “It would be a shame not to try the fresh bread. From the fried turkey sandwich to our classic chicken sandwich to our burgers—all on homemade bread—you can’t beat it. As a side, try the fries. The seasoned fries with the dipping sauce are amazing.”