The steakhouse made adjustments for its newest location in Philadelphia.

Prime Steak Concepts began about a decade ago with the promise of redefining the classic American steakhouse.

And it did just that with the opening of Dominick’s Steakhouse in 2011, followed by Steak 44, Ocean 44, and Steak 48 restaurants across Chicago, Houston, and Phoenix. From red carpets and 6-foot chandeliers to wine vaults holding 3,000 bottles, each location is intended to transform and transcend a consumer’s experience.

Prime Steak’s next culinary marvel was set for Philadelphia in the form of a fourth Steak 48 location. The 12,000-square-foot upscale restaurant features a mezzanine view of the city’s Broad Street and also has a bar, floor-to-ceiling glass expo kitchen, and multiple dining rooms with meticulous architectural detail.

Under normal circumstances, the location is supposed to seat up to 450 consumers. It was also scheduled to open in April. But the U.S. hasn’t lived under those conditions since March, and Steak 48 was forced to adjust accordingly.

In the unprecedented times, Prime Steak was not only tasked with opening a new restaurant that relies heavily on decor, amenities, and the human experience, but it also had to figure out how to accomplish all of it in a city where only 25 percent capacity is allowed.

The brand had to once again “redefine” the typical steakhouse, but this time, it was for a pandemic.

“We’re doing as well as we can in the current conditions, which we’re very optimistic,” says Chief Brand Officer Oliver Badgio. “There’s great consumer demand for the inventory that we can safely feel comfortable to use, and so we’re doing that. And we spent our time, when we were closed, training and installing best practices and being very good at what we do to be able to welcome everyone back safely and comfortably and without really interfering with any of the hospitality experienced.”

Badgio says there’s a great cure to obstacles of opening during a pandemic—operating with patience. The chief brand officer explains that his brand approached matters with an understanding that whether it’s the city departments, construction companies, or vendors, everyone should operate at a level they’re safe and comfortable at, and timelines should be revised. 

The restaurant, which opened in September, proceeded to redesign the interior to enforce health and safety standards, but with an aesthetic touch.

Interior Of A Prime Steak Concepts Steakhouse

Interior Of A Prime Steak Concepts Steakhouse

To avoid crowding at entry, Steak 48 instituted mandatory reservations that are limited to four people or less.

Steak 48 chose to leave all the tables inside to create a warm natural barrier. On top of all the non-seated tables, the restaurant placed large, 2-by-2 floral arrangements. The brand also installed hand sanitizer stations, and utilized its collection of semi-private dining suites enclosed with floor-to-ceiling glass.

“It gives a guest the immediate reassurance that as they walk into the dining room and are seated at a table, you could very quickly look to your left, to your right, and know that there isn’t just an empty table that you’re not sure whether it may or may not be be seated later,” Badgio says in regard to the floral arrangements. “… It’s a very clear message maintaining hospitality, that you’re in the right environment, and that we’re doing things very conservatively and very carefully with our guests and staff’s safety in mind, and making sure that everyone is still having a wonderful time. In short, it beats the heck out of a traffic cone.”

To avoid crowding at entry, Steak 48 instituted mandatory reservations that are limited to four people or less. Only four are allowed to sit together at a table. If the party includes more than four, then the remainder must sit at a table at least six feet away. The restaurant also isn’t allowing seating at the bar. Customers are required to wear face masks when not seated, and employees must wear both face masks and face shields for additional protection.

It’s a much different world than what consumers are used to, particularly for an upscale dining brand. But Badgio says Steak 48 is able to maintain its elevated atmosphere by sticking to its focus on the totality of the experience and not trying to do too much or go too fast.

This includes operating with indoor dining only. The brand attempted outdoor dining for a short period in Chicago, but Badgio says Prime Steak decided to stick to what it knows best and wait until it was appropriate to deliver its full experience inside as opposed to taking it outside and duplicating an environment that isn’t intended.

“Staying conservative, redesigning the dining rooms with the floral arrangements, and training staff on making hand hygiene all part of their normal process so that they’re very, very comfortable and it feels welcoming and warm,”says Badgio on maintaining experiential dining. “I think that if anything, if you’re familiar and comfortable, I think people feel better and it’s welcoming. It’s a part of hospitality, as is being considerate to understand that everyone is at a different level of comfort. And if we’re prepared to provide the utmost of a comfortable environment, then I think that makes people feel at ease and welcomed. Really, that’s the start of true hospitality—making people feel at ease and welcome.”

As for the outlook, Badgio says Prime Steak is remaining on track for the rest of the year. The brand is scheduled to open its fifth Steak 48 restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina, in mid-December. The executive is optimistic that the restaurants will deliver at a high level in terms of hospitality and quality food.

And so far, customers appear to agree, and that’s the real goal.

“We have been humbly complimented by our guests,” Badgio says. “They have been very appreciative of the additional steps beyond the required guidelines that we’ve taken—all designed to give great guest confidence and make everyone feel comfortable. And we’ve had a lot of people go out of their way to say that they appreciate that very much. When the truth is, we appreciate them coming to have dinner with us. They could go out to dinner anywhere they want, and choosing to come to us is a compliment that we do not take for granted.”

Feature, Restaurant Design