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“Honey, are we going to be busy?” 

The restaurant serves north of 10,000 pounds of chicken each month, it is customary to see a line of patrons wrapped around the corner of the building, and recently a customer traveled all the way from Tallahassee to see how the food stacked up to the emerging brand’s recognizable neon lights and lively vibe.

The question Jeremy Brumley and his wife Leah would pose to each other before bed each night before opening LoveBird in April 2021 seems almost tongue and cheek now because of the restaurant’s early success. But the truth is, one of Lakeland’s hottest new eateries to launch in recent years wasn’t just a flash in the pan that happened to work – it is a carefully built and curated dining entertainment experience that is less focused on trends and more focused on quality products and connecting on an emotional level with its customers. Still, the proof truly is in the banana pudding. (just check out their menu)

“[At first], I was trying to be realistic with everything going on, the size of the place and our menu,” Jeremy says.

“I thought we might have some of our friends and family, some friends of friends come, and we’d sit out here (on the patio) and have some tenders and have a draft beer with them.”

Owners Leah and Jeremy Brumley made a bet that a former gas station and Starbucks with cramped parking would make a hot spot for bold flavors and a fun vibe. So far, that bet has paid off significantly.

Jeremy, a lifelong Lakelander, left the security of an executive level position with PDQ, the effects of COVID culture were still playing out for local businesses, and the restaurant was opening in a one-time gas station with little square footage and cramped parking quarters. 

The Brumley’s – parents to four children ages 14 to 28 – hoped the calculated risk would pay off, and the fact that the fried Southern Chicken spot has on occasion run out of chicken because of demand is proof that it has.  

“I think what we learned is that we are so grateful that Lakeland allowed us to get open and stay busy. It’s been crazy,” Jeremy said.

LEFT: Perfectly Fried Tenders, Tangy Slaw and Jalapeno Bacon Corn.
RIGHT: Fried Chicken, Tomato Cucumber Salad and Bourbon Baked Beans

Although LoveBird heavily promotes its Nashville Hot Chicken, Leah said the number one seller on the menu is the G.O.A.T. It is LoveBird’s take on the traditional fried chicken sandwich (think window wars of national chains like Popeyes and Chick Fil A) and features generous hunks of their homemade chicken that is hand breaded following a 24-hour brining process.

The G.O.A.T. is LoveBird’s take on a traditional Southern chicken sandwich.

The second most ordered entree is the Nashville Hot sandwich, and the favorite side dish of customers are the ooey gooey Dirty Fries.The go-to dishes keep the cooks busy, but the Brumley’s are not afraid to admit they have made some minor menu tweaks to their original concept.

When LoveBird opened you could order a barbecue sandwich and cheesy potatoes. But not for long. Jeremy said he and Leah strongly considered process efficiencies such as oven time required for potatoes and how to serve quality hot food to as many people as possible each day.

They also started with three core sandwiches, with the idea to rotate another seasonally, but the way repeat customers have responded to the chicken sandwich with white sauce, thick cut bacon and pimento cheese forced the couple to re-evaluate that stance.

“Now, I think we might receive death threats if we take that Bama Chick sandwich off the menu, so it’s here to stay,” Leah jokes.

If their food is an attraction, it’s their brand that might create long-term staying power. 

Its bright colors, its classic monochrome floors and its consistently flavorful food with a little room left for creativity. Leah curates all of the playlists customers enjoy whether dinging inside or outside. They rotate in and out craft or regional sodas like Cheerwine, and Jeremy and the team have a large, always evolving selection of craft beers to pair with your food.

“Not to get too cerebral in terms of how it’s set up…but the beer is almost like the old ‘new releases’ of music, and that’s what you’ll see with our ‘staff pick’ or ‘new release,’” Jeremy says. 

Before Jeremy turned 20 he opened Woodpecker Records in Lakeland, a business and brand he ran and cultivated for a decade.

He says aside from his personal experiences, he also learned about the staying power of good branding by watching Ron Jon, who he says “wasn’t even a good surf shop” but evolved into becoming a globally transcendent logo and name.

“My dad has a Ron Jon sticker at his house, and he hates the beach!” 

The lighting, logos, apparel and social media all play a role, but Jeremy almost always steers back to the quality and consistency of their food.

The couple has aspirations to expand to more locations, starting throughout Florida, but when is not a matter of time, but of timing.