Aiming to run the next generation of casual dining with scratch cooking and a brand that takes responsibility for not only its guests but also the products it serves and the people it employs, Chris Simms opened the first Lazy Dog in Huntington Beach, California, in 2003.
“Every time I come home, my dog is the most excited individual in the house,” Simms says of the name choice. “We wanted people to be able to feel that welcome when they walk in, and we wanted them to just be able to kick back and relax and let us take care of everything.”
His goal beyond that was to appeal to a wide audience, the next generation of consumers—millennials and Generation Z—as well as the baby boomers.
So far, he’s succeeded. Walking through one of Lazy Dog’s 26 locations primarily on the West Coast, one could encounter a table of 5-year-olds and their parents celebrating a birthday party, an elderly couple on a date, and a group of young people pregaming for a night out with drinks and appetizers at the bar.
“It’s this balance of comfort and approachable classics that I think attract the older generation, and I think the bold innovation and the liveliness of the concept really attract the younger generation,” Simms says. Some of that balance coexists within the same item on the menu, like with the guest-favorite BBQ Bison Meatloaf, for example. It’s a comfort food, but it uses an innovative protein.