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 coveted 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 a beautiful and buttery brioche bun. Simple seasonings – salt and pepper – let the beef’s flavor shine. For every 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 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:
In the Pacha’s 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 up the incredible 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 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.”
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 two-fold – 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,” 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.”
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,” 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.”
About Iowa’s Best Burger: The Iowa’s Best Burger contest is funded by the Iowa Beef Industry Council through the Iowa State Beef Checkoff and sponsored in-part by the Iowa Beef Industry Council. The designation as Iowa’s Best Burger comes after a two-phase competition sponsored by the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association and Iowa Beef Industry Council. The first phase is based on votes from the public. For a month, burger lovers voted for their favorite Iowa burger online, submitting nearly 6,500 votes representing more than 500 restaurants. At the end of the month, the 10 restaurants with the most votes are declared the “Top 10.” From there, several anonymous judges visit each of the restaurants, scoring the burger patties based on taste, doneness and presentation.
About the Iowa Beef Industry Council: The Iowa Beef Industry Council is funded by the $1-per-head National Beef Checkoff Program and the $0.50-per-head Iowa State Beef Checkoff. Checkoff dollars are invested in beef promotion, consumer information, research, industry information and foreign market development, all with the purpose of strengthening beef demand. For more information, visit www.iabeef.org.
About the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association: The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association represents nearly 8,000 beef-producing families and associated companies dedicated to the future of Iowa’s beef industry. ICA’s mission is “Grow Iowa’s beef business through advocacy, leadership and education.”