Roosters honored as Utah Restaurant Association’s restaurateur of the year
Kym and Peter Buttschardt consider their Roosters group of restaurants as “gathering places first, and restaurants and taprooms second,” said Kym Buttschardt.
So it’s fitting that they were honored with the Utah Restaurant Association’s prestigious Golden Spoon: Restaurateur of the Year award.
“It’s for restaurateurs with a community-minded spirit, and for our love and support of the community,” said Kym Buttschardt.
The awards are nominated by restaurant industry peers and selected by the URA’s executive committee. Some past winners include Deer Valley Resort and Scott Evans of the Pago Restaurant Group in Salt Lake City.
Starting in 1991 when they opened their fledgling Union Grill at Union Station, the Buttschardts helped spur downtown Ogden’s renaissance. In 1995, they opened Roosters Brewing Co. on 25th Street, in serious decline since its railroad town heyday. The success of Roosters and Union Grill attracted other restaurants and shops, transforming the sketchy neighborhood into a historic destination. It’s become a backdrop for festivals, a farmers market, concerts and other events, of which the Buttschardts are often organizers or supporters.
The Buttschardts’ restaurants/breweries/taprooms have grown to include Roosters locations on 25th Street, Layton and at the Salt Lake City International Airport; an expanded Union Grill on 24th Street; the B Street production brewery and taproom on B Avenue in Ogden; and The Coop in Layton.
“As we have grown, we’ve recognized an opportunity to bring all the administrative services under one roof,” said Kym Buttschardt. “We purchased The Depot building in Ogden with that in mind and have been building out an ‘enterprise’ level of management services there. We’re calling that the Roosters Hospitality Group.”
Kim Bowsher has become the chief executive officer of Roosters Hospitality Group, which oversees the Roosters, Union Grill and Coop brands. Chef Matthew Lake is the chief operating officer, overseeing all culinary operations, including catering.
Bowsher most recently headed the Ogden Downtown Alliance and has directed Roosters’ branding and publicity for over 10 years through her media group, kbEnt.
“What she brings is a strategic vision to keep us relevant and working together as a group, rather than individual restaurants and breweries,” said Kym Buttschardt.
“She’s good at figuring out what your customers want, instead of what you want to give them,” said Pete Buttschardt.
Lake, a Culinary Institute of America grad, was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best Young Chefs in 1996 when he helmed prestigious New York City restaurants. More recently, he owned Zy and Alamexo restaurants in Salt Lake City. He was hired by the Roosters group in 2021.
“He looked at our whole business, analyzed our menus and brought so much focus,” said Pete Buttschardt. “With our costs and labor rising, we’ve refined our menus and taken some things off and brought some new things on. We’ve had the same menu items at the Ogden and Layton locations, but they weren’t always made the same way. He got to be consistent.”
All catering bookings, whether in Layton, Ogden or elsewhere, now take place with Roosters Hospitality Catering Sales Manager Angelica Sweet.
The past five years have brought growth on many fronts. Roosters opened its B Street taproom and production brewery in late 2018. The brand was awarded a contract at the Salt Lake International Airport through SSP America and began operating there in August 2021. When Corbin’s Grill closed, Roosters in Layton was offered a chance to take over that space next door. It was remodeled into an events area and a new bar/eatery concept, The Coop by Roosters, that opened last fall.
While The Coop was in development, Jeff Ray of Layton’s popular Holy Smoke BBQ was forced to close when he lost his building lease. In a culinary twist of fate, Ray was brought in as pitmaster for The Coop. Fans of the gone-but-not-forgotten Holy Smoke can get their barbecue fix with Ray’s smoked wings, pulled pork, tri-tip steak, brisket and carnitas enchiladas. Ray also provides wings, ribs and other smoked items for the other Roosters restaurants and caterings.
“It’s never going to be the old Holy Smoke, but we’re pretty solid in how we integrated it,” Kym Buttschardt said. “And the cocktail program there is pretty solid too.”
Although alcohol is a big part of Roosters Group restaurants, food still brings in the most revenue. At the Layton and 25th Street Roosters, sales are 80% food, 20% alcohol. At The Coop and B Street taproom, it’s 60% food, 40% alcohol. Union Grill’s sales are 90% food, 10% alcohol.
Each of the different restaurants have their menu mainstays. Union Grill is known for its French onion soup, topped with bubbly, melted provolone cheese. Its pasta salad is another favorite. Pepper jack enchiladas are Roosters’ stop-selling item, filled with shredded roasted turkey and green chilies, topped with pepper jack cheese sauce and chopped cilantro. Grilled salmon is a staple at both Roosters and Union Grill, and there’s a variety of tacos, sandwiches, burgers, pastas and salads at all the restaurants.
The Buttschardts first met working at Market Street Broiler while attending the University of Utah. Kym earned an accounting degree and accepted a job in Washington, D.C., with the Price Waterhouse firm. Meanwhile, Pete heard about an opportunity to open a restaurant in Ogden’s Union Station and scraped together enough money to open Union Grill in 1991.
Kym transferred back to Utah, “because Pete and I either had to break up or be in the same state.”
The two married, and Kym took over Union Grill’s marketing and front-of-house, so Pete could focus on food and operations.
Kym had grown up in Ogden, where her parents owned Sandy’s Fine Foods. But she didn’t feel a pull to come back to Ogden. “Pete is what pulled me back,” she said. “And I decided if I came back, I was going to make this a place where my sons would be proud of where they came from.”
They say they didn’t start out with a grand plan; mostly, they took opportunities as they came. In 1995, they saw an opportunity to open Roosters when brewpubs were becoming trendy. When they needed more space to host large groups, they moved Union Grill to the old Berthana Building on 24th Street, and expanded the Layton Roosters. The opportunity to produce beer on a larger scale for distribution in stores resulted in the B Street facility and taproom.
There were a few glitches along the way.
“We bought Wildflour Bakery and found out that we’re not bakers,” said Pete Buttschardt. He also tried supplying food and drinks in a converted train car at Ogden’s FrontRunner Station, “And that kind of bombed.”
They’ve weathered up-and-down years with recessions and the COVID-19 pandemic. Some years, one location didn’t make money but was offset by another location that did.
Now, the Roosters Hospitality Group will move all the restaurants and catering operations under one umbrella, said Kym Buttschardt. “Pete and I have been spinning plates for so long, and this will give us time to pursue other things that we care about.”