Birdcall is preparing to take flight.
The tech-heavy chicken sandwich restaurant already has three locations across Denver, but Birdcall CEO Peter Newlin said he hopes to open 10 more in the next two years, bankrolled by a $9.3 million funding round that closed late last month.
“We’ll use it to continue building our technology and engineering team, but we’re primarily focused on expanding into additional locations across Colorado,” Newlin said.
Gastamo Group is looking at about five additional locations in cities such as Colorado Springs, Castle Rock, Boulder and Arvada, Newlin said. He added that the team is exploring future out-of-state expansion, likely starting with nearby markets such as Texas or Arizona.
But the funding round also will be used to further develop Poncho, the proprietary technology company that makes “highly customized technology for the Birdcall concept,” said Newlin, who’s also Poncho’s CEO.
“The goal is to continue building the engineering team to focus on building technology that allows restaurants to operate at a higher efficiency,” he said.
For now, the technology is focused specifically on optimizing operations at Birdcall. The team at Gastamo Group, which also owns Park Burger, Park & Co., Homegrown Tap & Dough and Nomada, decided to develop the technology as a way to build a more sustainable restaurant.
“We’ve been operating restaurants in Colorado for over 10 years now, and we learned the hard way about the challenges of operating a good restaurant,” Newlin said. “The idea behind the technology is to solve the challenges we’ve been having for years and years.”
Most of the technology focuses on back-of-house operations, though Newlin declined to share details about that technology. On the front end, customers place orders using kiosks or its mobile app. A large screen then displays the customer’s name next to a countdown, which indicates exactly when an order will be ready.
“The general idea is figuring out how to run a restaurant based on statistics,” he said. “In the long term, we’re going to be running every piece of technology that touches on the customer and employee experience. We’re building a technology platform that will be the entire Birdcall ecosystem.”
There are generally five or six employees at each Birdcall, but only one who works front-of-house, Newlin said.
“The kitchen is hidden at the first location, and that was our biggest mistake,” he said. “Now we focus on opening the kitchen and highlighting the team, which totally eliminates the misconception that we’re trying to replace team members.”
The tech aspect of Birdcall has been a learning curve for the group of restaurateurs, Newlin said. To launch Poncho, the team worked with Pivotal Labs, a software development consulting firm that provided engineers to work with the ownership team on building and deploying the software.
Poncho since has phased out its partnership with Pivotal Labs and has its own engineering team, Newlin said.
Birdcall opened its first location in 2017 at 800 E. 26th Ave. in Five Points, and quickly added another in the Whole Foods Market by Union Station. The third outpost, near the University of Denver at 1535 E. Evans Ave., opened in August 2018.
Gastamo Group also is planning an entirely new concept for Wash Park. Newlin said that next summer, the team will open a Baja-style restaurant in the former Tavern Wash Park building at 1066 S. Gaylord St. Records show the group purchased the building last summer for $2.38 million.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Newlin’s job title.