How Firewater Saloon Built a Winning Brand

Jessica Elliott

Jessica couples her 24 years of restaurant and hospitality industry experience with meticulous research to deliver insight into technology, operations, and marketing topics. Her optimized copy helps companies engage their audience while strengthening their communication with clients, employees, and management.

Walk into either of Jamie Suckow’s restaurants, and you’ll be struck by the perfect combination of big-city energy and small-town charm.  

The country-western saloon theme might not seem chic enough for the metropolitan tastes of Chicagoans, but it’s a perfect fit for the quaint northwest Chicago neighborhood of Edison Park, the Flagship location of Firewater Saloon.

The bar at the Firewater Saloon in Chicago

What were the most important factors you considered when starting your restaurant?

Location, location, location. We already knew the location because it was where we lived, and when the right spot opened up, we jumped on it. The next factor was determining what was missing in the area. We wanted to fill a need of the community. That helped us come up with the theme. Lastly, we honed in on our target market. 

Tell us about the theme and your target market.

We all like country music and knew it would do well as there wasn’t a country bar in the neighborhood, so that part was a no brainer as was our customer base. We focused on Chicago police and firefighters. My partner is a retired firefighter, so that was an easy market to target. We also focused in on our local community. 

What is your marketing strategy, and how do you use it to target local police & firefighters?

We do all the regular online stuff with social media and our website. We have someone that keeps all that stuff up-to-date. We tried doing it ourselves in the beginning, but really it takes constant monitoring and interacting. We wanted to spend our time interacting with our customers face to face. Taking a hands-on approach when it comes to customer service and leave the technical stuff to the experts.  

We really get heavily involved in our local community. We do a ton of stuff with the Chamber of Commerce. They are definitely an organization you want to get involved with. For our cops and firefighters, we host a ton of fundraisers, retirement, and promotion parties. We also employ several of their family members.

Firewater Saloon’s marketing strategy.

  • Social Media Platforms: Local media agent updates and interact with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Google, Yelp, Yahoo, Trip Advisor.
  • Third-party delivery services: Uber Eats and Grub-Hub. Local media agent tracks sales and marketing and runs ad campaigns.
  • Website: Employs a company to update and troubleshoot the company websites on an ongoing basis.
  • Local Community involvement: Heavy involvement with the Chamber of Commerce, sponsors 15 softball teams per year, hosts the annual breakfast with Santa and the Easter bunny and is the go-to place for City of Chicago police and firefighter events.

Is branding something you thought about when you started?

Absolutely. We keep a consistent theme throughout all of our marketing and in our restaurant. All of our decor is consistent with our brand, as are our menu items and drink specials. We’ve got barn wood covering the walls and Instagram worthy accent pieces like the mosaic American flag everyone loves taking pictures in front of. 

We have house specialties like the “Coal Miner” (barbecue brisket sandwich with smoked sharp cheddar cheese), “The Duke” Oven-roasted turkey, avocado, apple smoked bacon & garlic mayo), and “The Gunslinger” (honey mustard braised short rib with jalapeños & smoked sharp cheddar). We also have an extensive drink menu with tons of moonshine, mules, and margarita cocktails. 

Firewater’s marketing blueprint combines new school technology and old school customer service. By hiring a company to manage their online presence, they can focus on community involvement and customer care and build a loyal customer base. It’s working for them. After three years in business, they opened a second location in the southeast Chicago neighborhood of Mount Greenwood in 2018 and have a third opening in Des Plaines, IL in 2020.

Learn more about how to develop a restaurant brand that stands out.

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