The Chicago-area location will be in the new upscale Mellody Farm mixed-use retail center at 1111 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Vernon Hills. The Fresno restaurant will be open in the Villagio Shopping Center at 7965 N. Blackstone Ave., and the Newark restaurant will be located just outside the NewPark Mall at 3100 Newpark Mall, Fresno. The Arlington, Texas, unit will be in the Arlington Highlands shopping center at 241 E. Interstate 20 Highway. Each restaurant will hire about 200 employees
Like usual, the 8,000-square-foot spaces will feature sizable dog-friendly patios complete with outdoor fire pits and lounge areas.
Simms took some time to chat with FSR about Lazy Dog’s expansion plans, and what separates the emerging chain from the pack.
What’s the elevator pitch of how Lazy Dog came to be?
We started the concept about 15 years ago. The first restaurant was in Huntington Beach, California. What I saw at the time was that casual dining was becoming much more profit focused. And with that came changes to the menu, changes to the way food was prepared. Where a lot of stuff was being pre-prepared and microwaved to order. I just felt like casual dining was headed in that direction, but the guest was headed in the opposite direction. All of sudden we started seeing cooking shows become popular. The Food Network became huge. Whole Foods. Trader Joe’s. And so, I looked at my dad, who is my partner and was helping me come up with the concept, and I said, ‘You know, there is going to come a time where the millennial population is going to come into their casual dining years.’ And while at the same time, I feel like the Baby Boomers are going to become more interested in where their food is coming from and how it’s being prepared. So we created Lazy Dog on the premise that we really felt like there needed to be a next generation of casual dining.
What does this next generation of casual dining look like?
That next generation of casual dining is all about scratch cooking, making food in-house, by hand. Responsibly sourced and carefully sourced products. And then offering a menu that is not only based in recognizable, comfortable cuisine, but also has bold innovations. When we look at the popularity of our items, in each category there’s one of those craveable classics that I call a comfort food that you just can’t get enough of, that you’ve grown up with, but we do it really well. At the same point, in each category we have this bold innovation that people really can’t find anywhere else. Flavor profiles like Vietnamese. Interesting combinations. All kinds of good stuff. We based the concept on that, and then packaged it up in this warm, yet edgy Rocky Mountain theme.