By Leslie Collins / Kansas City Business Journal

Traveling across the country on tour, the members of KISS tasted plenty of terrible food.

At the time, it was difficult to find a restaurant open late at night, and when it was, the food had been sitting there for hours.

"Fresh is something we don't often talk about, but there's nothing like fresh food," KISS frontman Gene Simmons said.

Simmons was in Overland Park on Sunday and Monday to visit his Rock & Brews restaurant, which he founded with Paul Stanley of KISS, restaurateur Michael Zislis and concert industry veterans Dave and Dell Furano.

Despite a packed schedule, Stanley and Simmons play an active role in the Rock & Brews restaurants. Both participate in owners meetings, receive daily sales reports and are involved in restaurant design and the music platform. Simmons focuses on business development and growth, and Stanley focuses on menu items.

"It really is division of labor," Simmons said. "You don't want to do something you're not qualified to do. I'm not the guy that knows the ingredients that goes into everything. It's really a team (effort). The real credit goes to the people who roll up their sleeves and every day make sure the food is spectacular and the people who greet you and take care of you and make your experience spectacular."

Rock & Brews prides itself on freshly made food and never uses frozen beef, an unusual quest in the restaurant business, said Kirk Williams, regional franchise partner for Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado.

More than the food, however, it's about the atmosphere. Rock 'n' roll greats are plastered on the walls, classic rock music videos and concert footage plays on big screen TVs, there's a full-service bar, a small play area for children, and pets are welcome in a patio area. Patrons also can watch their favorite local sports team on TV.

"It's not just a food establishment; it's an environment," Simmons said. "We want an experience, not 'Let's just have a burger.' If you want a burger, go to McDonald's."

Four decades on tour has influenced the way Simmons views the Rock & Brews concept, which now has eight U.S. locations. Just like his music fans are the "bosses," so are the patrons of Rock & Brews. Without the patrons, "we're nobody," he said.

"It is always about giving people more bang for the buck," Simmons said. "We try to bring elements of what KISS does and continues to do across the world, which is always to give people more."
Expansion plans

Williams said he's already looking for a second Kansas City-area location and added that the Overland Park location is doing well. Rock & Brews owners want to add restaurants worldwide but will focus on "responsible growth," Williams said.

Asked how many restaurants they plan to open in the next one to five years, Simmons said it's best not to focus on numbers.

"That's not the way to do it," Simmons said. "We want to go one step at a time and make sure the quality is there. You're only as good as your partner. You don't want to open up something from far away if you don't know who has skin in the game, who has roots in the local community, who cares about the local community and hires locally. The last thing we want to do is open too many and have any one of them not do well. ... The best advertising we can do is to make our bosses happy."

Shop Official KISS Merchandise