Thompson and former Wichitan Doug Glendenning and a private New York equity firm own 23 Firebirds Wood Fired Grills and have six more under construction.
Thompson, who founded the company in 2000 in Charlotte, N.C., planned to go to Oklahoma City and Tulsa next but changed his mind.
“I happened to be in Wichita for a class reunion,” he says.
While here, Thompson toured the former Brooks Brothers store at the Waterfront development at 13th and Webb Road.
The 7,650-square-foot space is on the corner of the retail section of the Waterfront and is known for its decorative domed roof.
“It’s the most prominent spot in the retail center,” says the Waterfront’s Stephen Clark II.
Glendenning, the former president of Lone Star, calls the Waterfront “one of the best areas in the greater Wichita area for sure.”
“I used to live just a couple of blocks from there, so I know that area very well,” he says.
Glendenning is a founder of Firebirds, too, but he says Thompson really created it.
Thompson’s Aspen home inspired what initially was a Colorado lodge theme.
“Over time … it’s evolved,” Glendenning says. “It’s a lot less Colorado feel and more just kind of upscale casual.”
“The theme is based around steaks, but we’re not perceived necessarily as a steakhouse,” Thompson says.
There are lots of wood-fired dishes, many of which have a southwestern flair.
Glendenning, who is based in Utah, says Firebirds has a higher quality of food and service than an average chain restaurant.
“I think Wichita will really appreciate that,” he says. “The concept is really sensational.”
There’s an open-air kitchen in Firebirds, which will seat 220, and lots of stone and wood.
“They’re a restaurant probably comparable to Red Rock,” Clark says.
There also will be a large bar area integrated into the restaurant.
Clark says Thompson is “known for developing concepts with … lively bars. He gets good bar business because the atmosphere lends itself to that.”
Thompson has been involved in the Fox and Hound concept as well, which also is at the Waterfront. He thinks Firebirds, which will open in May or June, will be a good fit for Wichita.
“We’re both from there (and) have a lot of friends and family there,” Glendenning says.
Tom Shannon of Wichita-based Thomas W. Shannon Real Estate handled the deal.
“It’s going to be great for the center,” Clark says. “We obviously think this will help us secure some additional tenants.”
Don Piros of Landmark Commercial Real Estate is handling leasing at Waterfront. There are 3,500 square feet available in two spaces.
“It fits great with the restaurant activity that we already have,” he says. “One of the neat things about this is they are going to be open for lunch as well … which will be good for the center.”
Thompson says he’s a fan of smaller markets such as Wichita.
“Wichita has always been a very good restaurant market,” he says. “I’m looking forward to coming back to the opening.”