Playing with fire

Tony Roma’s new hot spot ignites interaction.
tr fire grill drinks

Casual-dining chains are courting millennials with shareable menus, craft cocktails and hip decor. But Plano, Texas-based Romacorp, parent to Tony Roma’s, is taking the courtship a step further with an entirely new sister concept—TR Fire Grill—tailored to the in-demand group. The first location opened in Orlando, Fla., in March after a year in test under a different name, Tony Roma’s Fire Grill & Lounge. It’s in a modernized space that formerly housed a traditional Tony Roma’s.

“Regulars found a disconnect between the old Tony Roma’s and Fire Grill & Lounge, and new customers didn’t really know the brand,” says Myres, explaining the name change. While in test, the team introduced Sunday brunch, created local sourcing partnerships and tried out seasonal menu items—all elements included in the permanent rollout. With the bar and open-fire grill as focal points, the goal of the new concept, Myres says, is to provide an interactive dining experience with food-and-beverage elements that appeal to millennials.

The interaction starts at the bar, where mixologists put on a show handcrafting cocktails. It extends with an open floor plan that provides full view into the kitchen; patrons also can request a spot at the six-seat chef’s table—no reservations needed.

So far, bar sales are almost double those of the Tony Roma’s formerly in the space, and brunch traffic is high, Myres says. The next unit, opening this summer, is being built from the ground up in nearby Winter Park, Fla., for about $2 million in construction costs, says Myres.

Concept: TR Fire Grill
Location: Orlando, Fla.
Footprint: 5,500 to 8,500 square feet
Seating: 170, plus 30 at the bar and 25 on the patio
Key features: Open-fire grill, chef's table, communal tables, convection smokers

tr fire grill bar

Tequila and pisco are aged in small barrels on the horseshoe-shape bar; power plugs below let guests charge up as they sip and snack.

tr fire grill window

Cooks grill over live fire in the open kitchen; specialties include smoked beef-tenderloin tacos and short-rib risotto.

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