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    How Chicken and Waffles Became a Star at Bruxie

  • Founder and chef Kelly Mullarney on how the fast casual keeps innovating.

    Bruxie / Bob Hodson Photography
    Bruxie’s Holy Chicken showcases the brand’s creative use of chicken and waffles.

    With seven locations in the U.S.—mainly in Southern California—Bruxie is the one-stop chicken-and-waffle shop. The sandwich portion of the restaurant’s menu includes five chicken-and-waffle sandwiches, three bun sandwiches, and three waffle (minus chicken) sandwiches. The breakfast waffle menu includes four more classic breakfast options.

    Founder and chef Kelly Mullarney has always been an innovator in the kitchen and is drawn to pairing flavors from different cultures, which is ultimately how Bruxie was born. QSR spoke with him about the evolution of the concept’s menu.


    What sparked the idea for Bruxie?

    I was approached by an old associate of mine who challenged me to figure out a way to sell more of his unique waffle mix. Simultaneously, I was working with a Korean fried chicken company, consulting on their American menu. I was thinking about waffles and what sort of classic fried chicken and waffle combinations could be done. Eating street food one late night in Seoul, I thought, “How can I take this thick Belgian-style waffle with the crispy exterior and soft, beautiful, yeasty interior and hold it in my hand and walk down the street?” I needed to take the waffle to a thinner platform, almost like a pancake or a crepe.

    Back in the kitchen, I tested the waffle out. I deconstructed a classic fried chicken and waffle dinner and put it back together as a simple sandwich with a chile honey and a Southern-style slaw with apple cider vinegar to make the sandwich light and crunchy. That was our original fried chicken and waffle sandwich at our first location, which opened November 8, 2010.

    Tell me about the other breakfast sandwiches you offer.

    Our original menu consisted of about five savory items: the bacon, egg, and cheddar; the fried chicken and waffle; a burger; and then I had a prosciutto, Gruyere, and smoked salmon sandwich at the time that was sort of a brunch play. I added a sausage, egg, and cheddar that runs parallel as far as sales with a bacon, egg, and cheddar. I do a green eggs and ham where I take arugula pesto and put that on the egg, and then I take some shaved ham and set it up with cheddar cheese, which is a very popular breakfast sandwich. Even though the fried chicken sandwich always sold like 45 to one, our breakfast sandwiches have remained popular.

    What is your most ordered chicken sandwich?

    The Holy Chicken started as an LTO, then it landed on the menu and has now surpassed everything else as the No. 1–selling sandwich. It is fried chicken tossed in maple syrup and topped with Applewood-smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, a sriracha mayo, and a sunny-side-up egg. It’s a great indulgent breakfast sandwich, but people order it all day long. Anytime I want to show somebody the restaurant for the first time, I put that in front of them.

    What’s your process for innovation for menu items like these?

    I’ve traveled all over the world—Asia, Dublin, Bali, Russia. I’ve always tried to learn different foods from different cultures. That’s the starting point. Then, because of this great Bruxie executive team that we put together a few years ago, my primary objective is to be in the kitchen trying to create new ways to present our fried chicken and put stuff on a waffle—new ways to cross over different genres and see what’s trendy. If I think I’ve got some things I want to try, I get our collaborators together and do a food tasting.

    What sort of LTOs have you found work best at Bruxie?

    We do other promotions, but having monthly LTOs on a rolling basis has proved to be very successful for us. The more Instagrammable the items are, the more successful they are.

    One LTO I made for a shoot today is a green chile fried chicken sandwich in honor of hatch green chile season in Mexico. We do a pastrami sandwich where I put together fried chicken, Swiss cheese, and pastrami with a mustard slaw on a waffle or a bun for June. It’s doing very well right now. I did a fried chicken torta in honor of Cinco de Mayo for May. It’s the most successful LTO we’ve had to date. The month before that, I did Meat Your Maker—an angus cheeseburger with a spiced fried chicken thigh, Swiss cheese, and bacon on a waffle. It was the most expensive sandwich we’ve ever done, but it did so well that we’re bringing it back next month.