When Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers opened in Ahwatukee this January, optimism was high for yet another slam dunk for the Valley’s newest “neighborhood burger joint.”
It was the third burger and brew spot opened by Scottsdale-based Square One Concepts in the East Valley, joining Gilbert’s Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers that opened in December 2016 and Chandler’s that opened in March 2015.
There are now 12 Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers in Metro Phoenix and two in Southern California, making it the fastest growing brand within Square One Concepts roster.
And then came St. Patrick’s Day and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego’s state of emergency declaration on COVID-19, followed three days later by Gov. Doug Ducey’s statewide directive that closed bars and limited restaurant service to take-out, delivery or drive-through.
For Square One Concepts founder and CEO S. Barrett Rinzler and his staff at restaurants that include Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers, Bourbon & Bones, Famous 48, and Wasted Grain, the ensuing months have been “a roller coaster ride.”
And one he said he hopes never to revisit.
“We were shut down, then reopened with limited menu curbside takeout at some locations, then opened all locations for take-out, and now we’ve opened our dining rooms at limited capacity,” Rinzler said.
The changes meant adjustments had to be made at all Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers locations, as well as other brands owned and operated by Square One Concepts, Inc.
Often those adjustments required nearly day-by-day re-adjusting depending on the status of the shut-down, and the comfort level of customers.
“Our team had to adjust quickly, act quickly, then revise, adjust and act again, all the while double-checking health measures to ensure our employees and our guests were safe and comfortable, especially with dine-in services resuming,” Rinzler wrote recently in InBusiness Magazine.
“We’re working hard to stay ahead of this as much as possible, but you don’t really know until you’ve been through it.”
Rinzler said the social distancing measures necessitated to reopen indoor dining at restaurants have taken its toll on the organization’s bottom line.
Yet, adhering to the health protocols meant being able to serve Ahwatukee diners once again inside the 5,000 square foot Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers, as well as on their expansive misted and dog-friendly patio, located at 5005 E. Chandler Blvd.
Ahwatukee residents Jason and Jacque Denis are among those enjoying the return of dine-in service at Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers.
The couple said there’s “nothing like a cold brew and a burger” after a day of riding with friends on their Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
And they’re glad to finally have one close to their home of 15 years.
“My husband and I were so excited to see Ahwatukee was getting Cold Beers and Cheeseburgers for several reasons. Ahwatukee needs more variety of restaurants, and we’d visited the one in Chandler several times and loved their food,” said Jacque Denis, adding that her favorite of the 1,300 customizable burgers is the Bacon PB&J Burger.
“They have a great selection of food and beer and have the best patio seating with multiple large TVs to watch and Mist-360 Breeze misters, so you’re nice and comfortable sitting on the patio on a hot Arizona day,” she said.
Ahwatukee’s Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers boasts 130 beer choices, a full bar and an expansive menu that includes much more than their famous half-pound, hand-formed never-frozen, ground chuck customizable burgers.
Jumbo salted pretzels, sliders, grilled drumettes, sandwiches, stadium char dogs, salads, their MMMac & Cheese variations and a kids’ 12-years-and-younger menu round out their offerings.
As part of their COVID-19 safety protocols, Ahwatukee’s GM Zak Kennedy said Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers opted to provide one disposable menu per table, offer an online menu at ColdBeers.com that can be referenced via mobile devices and post the menu and specials on some of the restaurant’s 44 flat screen TVs.
Rinzler added that a designated team was put in place to sanitize all surfaces throughout the day. For customers, additional hand sanitizer dispensers were installed in the entryway and dining room.
In addition to a 10-point employee health check before every shift, all staff members wear a mask and wash and sanitize their hands frequently.
Spacing of tables and bar seats encourages social distancing with reminders appearing on signage throughout the restaurant.
“Safety is our number one priority. And we’ve prepared our staff to empathize and be patient,” said Rinzler, who was named Restaurateur of the Year and inducted into the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame in 2017.
As a boy growing up in Ohio, Rinzler’s dream was to be an architect. While pursuing his degree in real estate and finance at Arizona State University, Rinzler turned his eyes to building a restaurant business.
“I’ve always been fascinated with building and constructing things, and now I’m in on the designing and the layout of our Square One Concepts restaurants,” he said “I handle a lot of design, and I get the architect experience without all the technical aspects.”
Square One Concepts, which Rinzler launched in Scottsdale in 2011, is a family-owned and operated full-service hospitality management, concept development, design and consulting firm.
Rinzler has created, designed and managed more than 20 unique concepts throughout the Southwest, San Diego, Carlsbad and Denver.
Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers is the fastest-growing brand within Square One Concepts.
Normally aggressively expansive, Square One Concept’s 2020 restaurant openings currently remain in a holding pattern.
Rinzler said this time last year, Square One Concepts had five restaurants coming online. Presently, even the proposed second Bourbon & Bones, a 6,750 square foot space in Gilbert’s San Tan Village, slated to open this September, has already been delayed. Yet, ever the optimist, Rinzler said he’s intent on getting it open for Thanksgiving and the holiday season.