The rotisserie chicken is a ubiquitous grocery store staple. From Costco to Boston Market to Whole Foods, the perfectly browned bird makes an easy dinner or cuts prep time for favorites like chicken pot pie or enchiladas in half. But what if instead of a last minute afterthought, the rotisserie chicken took center stage?
That’s the idea behind the new, California-inspired fast casual restaurant Wildacre Rotisserie that opened earlier this summer in Greenwich, Connecticut. The menu upgrades the grab-and-go favorite with a globally inflected spice blend and side dishes inspired by Mediterranean, Central American and Asian cuisines. Plus, all the chickens are pasture-raised, heirloom birds fed a diet of non-GMO feed, and every other menu item is local and organic when possible.
We chatted with founder Ben Pote, a veteran of large restaurant and hospitality groups, about this new venture, how he picked the location and which of their signature sauces (there are six!) is the most popular so far.
What is your culinary background?
I have been in the restaurant industry for almost 15 years and have an extensive background in culinary operations and menu strategy. Prior to founding Wildacre, I held leadership positions at a number of nationally-renowned food brands, including as the Director of Development at Souvla in San Francisco, Director of Culinary Innovation at Starbucks and Director of Culinary Strategy and Culinary Program Manager at Sweetgreen.
After earning my bachelor’s degree in marketing from Washington University in St. Louis in 2008, I cooked my way through the kitchens of multi-unit restaurant groups like the Hillstone Restaurant Group (Hillstone, Houston’s) and The Florence Group (led by the Food Network’s Tyler Florence), before graduating from the French Culinary Institute in New York City in 2010.
What was the inspiration for the restaurant as a fast casual concept?
I wanted to reinvent the idea of the rotisserie restaurant, focusing on food quality and sourcing in an approachable format. The fast casual model is one that allows us to reach as many customers as possible in a counter-service format.
The culinary scene in Greenwich has exploded in recent years, and I wanted to be a part of that evolution. There is nothing like Wildacre in Greenwich, so I felt that there would be a great opportunity to fill a much-needed gap with the community.
How did you decide on the seasoning mix?
Our seasoning blend features flavors inspired by California, like the rest of our menu. Bay and fennel grow wild in California and give the chicken beautiful savory, herbaceous notes that compliment the flavor of the meat.
What’s the most popular sauce so far?
It’s a close tie between the Honey Dijon and the Garlic Dijonnaise.
What values are most important to the brand?
The most important value that we instill in our team is to be kind. Kindness can show up in how you treat yourself, how you treat your coworkers and how you treat guests. We want our community to feel welcome at Wildacre, and that starts with showing kindness.
What has the reaction been like?
Overwhelmingly positive. We’ve been very fortunate in that our community has been incredibly supportive and given us great feedback about the food and the staff. Folks seem to really enjoy the Wildacre experience.
Who is the audience for Wildacre?
Initially, we were thinking our target customer would be young families, but we’ve seen a broad array of customers coming through the door since we opened in July. Our customers are diverse in every way – age, gender, race, nationality.
What do you see as the future for Wildacre Rotisserie?
Our focus is to continue to serve consistently delicious food to our community in Cos Cob. We’ll eventually look at opening more Wildacres once we are confident we can do so without sacrificing the quality of our food at our first (and most important) location.
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