Joybird might soon be the fanciest fast-food joint in Adelaide. The tricked-up suburban chicken shop – from serial restaurateur Simon Kardachi, Shobosho chef Adam Liston and cocktail king Ollie Margan – opens later this month in the former Zoe’s Restaurant site in Hyde Park. It’ll expand on Liston’s specialty of skewered chicken with flame-licked rotisserie chook.
For his 13th venue, Kardachi wanted to bring to market a more accessible option that would appeal to every kind of diner. “You need nine out of 10 people to dine in your restaurants,” he tells Broadsheet, “and I have a lot of other restaurants that are very good at what they do, but they don’t attract the general public time and time again.
“It was [about], ‘How do we wrap up the ladies who want to lunch mid-week with the hungover people on weekends with the people who want to, on their way home, stop by and order a whole chicken and sides, have a beer at the bar then take it home to their family.”
When Broadsheet visits in early August, that vision is starting to come to life. Although it’s hard to tell from the outside, with King William Road’s $15.5 million street upgrade.
“We picked the end of August to open because the works were meant to be finished by August,” says Kardachi. “So we’ve been caught slightly, but this end of the street will be okay. These footpaths are supposed to be finished in a fortnight, which will be about a week before we open. We’re lucky with the corner site, that we have access from [Mitchell Street too].”
Kardachi knows the street well – he opened his first restaurant, The Melting Pot (now Nido), a few doors down in 1999, and its neighbouring Melt in 2005 – and he’s feeling positive about the new era. “The end result … for those who can survive it – and half won’t – it’s going to be a much better street for the community,” he says. “It won’t make such a different in this business because we already seat about 100, but for Nido and Melt down the road, to be able to seat an extra 20 to 24 people out front … that’s gold.”
Inside Joybird, things are much brighter. The walls have received a lick of yellow paint, there are white and gold floor tiles and white and yellow ceramic bar tiles. “This room has a really awesome golden warm glow,” says Kardachi. “Yellow for me signifies sunshine and health and outdoors and chicken and happiness and corn-fed.”
The team brought on regular collaborators Studio-Gram to bring the concept to life. In Kardachi’s words, he wanted them to “produce something that brings back people’s fond memories of their childhood chicken shop experience, but brings that into the modern world”.
Seventies-style vinyl tiles (including original black and white tiling from the Zoe’s era) and timber paneling add a touch of nostalgia. “They’re more contemporary takes on some classic finishes,” says designer Graham Charbonneau. “So the classic ’70s timber paneling, but done in a more contemporary way.
“It was about [recreating] the neighbourhood chicken shop but re-appropriating that as well. Most of them are pretty old and tired, I guess, so it wasn’t about replicating it but modernising it, and adding an element of fun. It was about creating a place that caters to the takeaway market but also enables people who want to stay and dine to stay and dine. And a big part of that is creating a fun atmosphere.”
The 120-seat venue will have a long yellow banquette, which will wrap around the facade, and movable tables and chairs to cater to different-sized groups. Like the old-school charcoal-chicken shops you know, the seats are made of vinyl. “A lot of greasy fingers,” Kardachi says with a smirk. “We learnt at SeaSalt very quickly that when people eat chips and chicken with their hands you need to pick your surfaces very carefully.”
“There’s probably a reason all the ’70s diners had vinyl seating and linen tops, because they’re easy to clean,” adds Charbonneau.
Unlike the old chicken shops you know, this one will have counter seating, looking over the kitchen and bar, which will serve beer on tap, house wine from Delinquente and cocktails designed by Ollie Margan (Maybe Mae, West). “A lot of that is about breaking down the idea of the neighbourhood chicken shop so it gives you the ability to see what people are doing,” says Charbonneau.
A back room will have two long communal tables to seat large groups, and double as a function room. Kardachi foresees kids birthday parties, and even has plans for Joybird branded balloons. “The idea is that it can operate quite well as a private space,” he says.
All going well, he and Liston have big plans for the brand; they want to open several shops in Adelaide and take the concept interstate and overseas. “One of the things we saw [travelling] in Singapore and Hong Kong and Japan, even Kazakhstan … is chicken,” Liston told Broadsheet earlier this year. “Everyone eats it, no matter where you’re from.”
“Part of the pitch to Dave and Graham is if we did get to Southeast Asia and somewhere like Hong Kong, Joybird would potentially be a cocktail bar that serves chicken, not a chicken shop that serves cocktails,” says Kardachi. “We’d turn it on its head. Because Asia’s a very different market and there are different opportunities over there, and drinking cultures.”
The concept of an expandable business influenced the design. “The idea [is] they could kind of carry it through to different venues and different places … not that we’d replicate it, but something we could kind of re-do but still have it talk to the other venues,” says Charbonneau.
Each Joybird shop will start with a palette of timber panelling, ceramic-tiled bar faces and vinyl-tile floors. “There are a lot of things you could do with what is ultimately three elements that define the space,” says Charbonneau. “There’s a lot of ways you can play with them to create a different interior that’s still a reflection of the original.”
Joybird will open at the end of the month