The antithesis of classic, an independent stands its ground against the chains.

Nashville is a city known for its plethora of steakhouses, but that didn’t stop Chris Hyndman from opening another.

The president and CEO of M Street Entertainment Group, he opened Kayne Prime in Nashville in April 2011.

But while Kayne Prime is a steakhouse, it is a far cry from the other steakhouses—chains like Morton’s, Ruth’s Chris and their ilk—that line the streets of downtown Nashville.

Hyndman describes Kayne Prime as a boutique steakhouse that’s chef-driven.

“The goal was to be familiar to the steakhouse goer but to do everything with a modern, fresh feel. We wanted to create something a little sexier across the board,” he says.

Everything about Kayne Prime is different from a traditional steakhouse, he says, starting with the food.

The menus change seasonally and “we don’t compete with the steakhouses but with the best of the best of chef-driven menus,” Hyndman explains.

Much of the food is as local as possible, which also isn’t typically the case in the chain steakhouses, he points out, since they are operated on such a large scale.

There are also more dishes with what Hyndman calls “finesse,” as well as a five-course vegetarian meal that changes daily.

But much of the food is modern interpretations of the classics, such as shrimp cocktail with a Moroccan twist—wild prawns are served with green harissa sauce—and 13 Mile Oysters, with honeydew mignonette and frozen Tabasco slushy.

The design is also far from the standard dark, staid steakhouse we have come to expect.

“We are the antithesis of classic,” Hyndman says. “We use lots of woods but we use reclaimed woods with hues. We use custom lighting that we designed ourselves and is cutting edge. There are lots of windows and they open out to the city skyline, and the train yard (which gives the restaurant its name) sits opposite our entrance. We’re not in the base of a hotel like many steakhouses. Things are simple and elegant.”

The service is different, too—“less stuffy and pretentious,” says Hyndman, and very modern with an iPad in lieu of a sommelier. 

And the drinks are also not the standard steakhouse fare: “The libations list is definitely much more mixology forward,” says Hyndman, “and our wine list features an entire section of 30+ labels in our ‘Off the Beaten Path/Alternative Blend’ category that is very popular with our adventurous diners. These wines showcase boutique wineries, unique blends, and up-and-coming appellations.”

Because Kayne Prime is so different from chain restaurants it attracts a different crowd. Diners in their 40s is the median demographic, and what’s unusual is that female diners make up a good portion of that.

The diner that Kayne Prime attracts is also more sophisticated. “It’s a mix of your affluent locals with foodies—lots of people who may not be affluent but who want to spend their disposable income on food,” Hyndman explains.

Kayne Prime is the fifth restaurant that Hyndman has opened. He had been looking to open a boutique steakhouse for a long time “but the timing wasn’t right,” he says. “We wanted it to be the crown jewel of our restaurant group.”

The timing was right last spring because over the past 10 years Nashville has changed, he points out. “The city has grown and the dining has become more sophisticated. There’s been a fundamental shift in the perception of the public that homegrown restaurants can be great and perhaps superior to the chains.”

He is aware that he’s opened at a difficult time—at the tail end of a huge recession, or depending on whom you speak to, during one. Ever the optimist, he sees that as a bonus.

“It makes you execute much more sharply and makes you focus on product selection.”

At Kayne, Hyndman says he sources very competitively and negotiates aggressively during lean times for purveyors. He also bundles orders for the restaurant with other M Street concepts to get greater economies of scale and minimizes waste by using products across several menus.

And that will stand the restaurant in good stead going forward, he adds, since operations at Kayne Prime won’t suddenly change when the economy improves.

The per person check average of $90 at Kayne Prime is comparable to the other steakhouses in town. But Hyndman guesses customers would be willing to even pay a little more at his restaurant.

“There are people who are tired of the same chain offerings. And people are willing to pay a little more for a different experience.”

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Feature, Leader Insights, NextGen Casual