October 2, 2023
Since being named the home of Iowa’s Best Burger for 2023, Flight Bar + Grille in Huxley has been serving a record-setting number of burgers while contributing thousands of dollars to the Ballard Education Foundation.
“Overall, our restaurant sales have doubled since winning Iowa’s Best Burger award,” explains Matt Pacha, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Marianne. “In May, after the announcement, we sold 5,000 Foundation burgers. Before receiving the honor, the most Foundation burgers we sold in a month was 859.”
The highly sought-after Foundation burger is a double-smash burger with cheddar cheese. It includes mustard aioli, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions and is topped with thick-cut bacon served between halves of a buttery brioche bun. Simple seasonings — salt and pepper — let the beef’s flavor shine. For every $15 Foundation burger that is sold, Flight Bar + Grille donates $1 to the Ballard Education Foundation. The Foundation was the inspiration for the burger’s name, and this donation structure has been in place since the Pachas opened Flight in 2022 in Huxley, a central Iowa community about halfway between Des Moines to the south and Ames to the north.
By the numbers
In addition to crushing the previous sales records, winning the annual Best Burger contest resulted in across-the-board increases for many food items during May:
Foundation burgers sold: 5,000 (last year, the average monthly sales were 250)
pounds of beef turned into burgers: 4,600 (compared to 1,200 pounds in May 2022)
pounds of French fries sold: 4,500
pounds of white onions used: 1,300
The customer from the farthest away was a man from Australia, who was visiting family in Iowa and traveled to Huxley just to try Iowa’s Best Burger for 2023.
Thanks to the success of being the home of this year’s Best Burger, Flight will soon be offering a 401(k) program to its employees.
The biggest day for the restaurant was Saturday, May 6, just five days after being crowned Iowa’s best. It also coincided with the Iowa State University commencement and Mother’s Day weekend. On that day, Flight Bar + Grille charted 90% of its average weekly sales in just one day. With 3,291 Foundation burgers plated and sold in June, burgers continued to soar.
Burger sales beef up community benefits
In the Pachas’ first year of business, they donated more than $3,000 to the Ballard Education Foundation from sales of the Foundation burger. In just two months following being crowned the home of Iowa’s Best Burger for 2023, $8,291 has been donated to the Foundation, translating into tangible benefits for the community. All thanks to customers’ love for delicious Iowa beef and the award-winning way the Flight team serves the sandwich.
“The Foundation allows teachers to apply for spring and fall grants, based on needs for their particular classrooms, grade level or professional learning community,” says Tari Thompson, president of the Ballard Education Foundation. “The grants translate into a variety of different benefits, such as books and supplies, STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] online subscriptions, incentives that reward students for positive behavior and teacher wellness programs.”
Thompson adds that the Best Burger accolades are bringing more people to Huxley, a community of 4,600 residents.
“Flight Bar + Grille’s hard-earned success benefits the entire community, because people are visiting here and experiencing what our small town has to offer,” Thompson says. “The award-winning burger’s influence is far greater than its impact on the Foundation.”
Just doors down from Flight Bar + Grille, Double Dipped Ice Cream and Coffee Shoppe is owned and operated by twin sisters, Stacey Noe and Sara Hillebrand, along with their husbands. The business serves a full coffee and ice cream menu, along with sandwiches and soups daily. In addition, the duo — who, coincidentally, were raised on a cattle farm in eastern Iowa — owns The Local Supply Co., an outlet for Iowa craftspeople to sell their products.
“I can easily say we’ve experienced at least a 20% increase in foot traffic and sales since the Best Burger announcement,” Hillebrand says. “I initially thought it would be a few-day increase when the announcement was made — but weeks later, people are still flocking to the restaurant and our community to enjoy the burger.”
Matt Pacha notes that the staff at Flight takes pride in knowing they are serving the community alongside amazing burgers.
“We employ many young people, and some aspire to be teachers. It’s exciting for them to see the big picture of our mission being twofold — to provide an exceptional dining experience with our beef burgers, and then to see how people’s love of beef burgers is a catalyst for us to be able to give back to our community at the same time,” Matt Pacha says.
Lexi Flaherty is a guidance counselor at Ballard High School and is in awe of the money raised for the school district through the burger sales, and how a burger is a door-opener for students to learn life skills.
“I’ve sent kids to Flight Bar + Grille who want to learn how to successfully interview for a job or learn about what it takes to run a business,” she says. “They can see firsthand the hard work that goes into success and how important it is to serve quality food.”
Bringing people together
Beyond the community impact, Flight Bar + Grille’s owners find enormous satisfaction in the full-circle benefits the farm-to-table aspects of agriculture and food service bring together.
“On the restaurant side, we think about where our food is sourced from, and we know that’s on consumers’ minds, too,” Matt Pacha says. “Meeting beef producers as a result of winning this award has been huge for Marianne, me and our staff. It’s humbling to see the far-reaching impacts of what a single burger can do. We’re so proud of how the burger sales help producers, the community, our Flight Bar + Grille team and so many others.”
Source: Iowa Beef Industry Council
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