Photo by Connor Burnard / Assistant Lifestyles Editor
Freebirds World Burrito opened its first location in Murfreesboro, Tennessee on Medical Center Parkway Tuesday morning. The fast-casual burrito chain, founded in Santa Barbara, California in 1987 and currently headquartered in Austin, Texas, has maintained a Freebirds food truck in Nashville for the past year.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday the store began with a three-day soft opening in which customers could make a donation in return for their meal, ensured that all proceeds would be given to local organizations or charities, which included the Murfreesboro Fire Rescue Department, the Tennessee Fisher House Foundation, the Rutherford County Area Habitat for Humanity, CASA of Rutherford County and Endure Athletics.
The name of the burrito-focused chain derives from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird” and was named by original founder Mark Orfalea.
The senior regional manager for Freebirds in Tennessee, Adrienne Firth, said that the company exemplifies its namesake with its originality and uniqueness.
“We chose ‘Freebirds’ because we’re kind of the same thing: individuals, uniqueness,” Firth said. “We’re going to do things our own way, we’re going to be bold, we’re going to do things outside of the box.”
The distinctiveness of Freebirds that Firth mentioned is one of the main reasons employee Jacqueline Hernandez began working at Freebirds, or as the employees say, “joined the tribe.”
“I met with (general manager Alison Rincon) and did my interview and right then and there, I knew that this is exactly where I want to be,” Hernandez said. “The group here isn’t called a group, it isn’t a set of employees, we’re called a tribe, so we’re a family.”
Rincon, the general manager of the new location, said that the work environment of the restaurant is why she took the opportunity to move from California to Middle Tennessee to manage the first Freebirds location in the state.
“I was brought on as a cashier, but I immediately grew into the management position,” Rincon said. “We promote from within, so all of our managers have been new at a position at one time in our company, which is what I love about it.”
Nick Buchhorn, a director of operations for Freebirds who oversees areas in Texas as well as the new Tennessee location, says the policy to promote from within is how he and many other leaders in the company have advanced from entry-level positions.
“I started with Freebirds back in 1998 while I was a student at Texas A&M, and that’s really an entry point for a lot of our employees: either while they’re in college or just as an entry-level position,” Buchhorn said. “Fortunately, I had the opportunity to grow with the company over the years. I was a business management major and saw a lot of value in the company and the culture and where it was going at that time and stuck with it and it opened up doors for me as we expanded into new markets and new job opportunities.”
“I’m kind of a product of one of the things that we preach quite a bit here in our organization, and that’s “tribe development,” Buchhorn continued. “We call our team ‘the tribe’ and we focus on a career path that’s centered around where you start as an entry-level employee and really grow your influence into a general manager or above.”
MTSU students Cadie Davis and Emily Gleason were at the opening to try Murfreesboro’s newest fast-casual eatery after seeing the grand opening advertised and hearing about it from friends.
“We came to Zoe’s Kitchen (next door) not that long ago and I think they had a sign out by the street that said they were opening soon, and I was sort of familiar with them because I work on a food truck,” Davis said.
“I came with Cadie, so that’s my story,” Gleason jokingly added.
Gleason and Davis mentioned that as students, Freebirds could consider a student discount similar to those of some local establishments like Marble Slab Creamery in order to specifically attract Murfreesboro’s student population.
With its first brick-and-mortar location in Tennessee now open in Murfreesboro, Freebirds is planning to open another store near Green Hills in Nashville within the next year. Management at the new location is also planning to visit MTSU’s campus at the beginning of the fall semester to give students information about their brand and what they serve.
For more information on Freebirds World Burrito, click here.
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