Joel Reynders was named VP of culinary and executive chef at Bar Louie just last May, and he hit the ground running. The 67-unit chain has long been a popular happy hour destination, but guests would order a drink or two and some nibbles and leave to have dinner someplace else.
To fill that gap, Reynders—whose casual-dining experience includes Red Lobster, Darden, Tijuana Flats and more—developed a new collection of approachable, flavor-forward dinner entrees and sides. He also worked on filling the lunch gap with $10 menu items that could get customers in and out quickly. And he expanded the bar menu with craveable bites like fried cheese curds, truffle fries and shareable flatbreads.
All along, his R&D goal was to make sure the food complemented and didn’t overpower Bar Louie’s all-important cocktails. And while affordability was key, Reynders paid lots of attention to execution, too. Performance provides value to consumers as much as price, he feels.
Listen as Reynders details how he’s elevated the culinary experience at Bar Louie while preserving its DNA and where he’s taking the menu next.
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