With restaurant customers dealing with rising inflation and higher menu prices, they respond in three clear ways—trade down to cheaper items, cut back on items ordered, or reduce visits entirely, according to David Portalatin, NPD’s food industry advisor.
Steakhouses—legacy and up-and-coming—are responding in the best way they can, with value deals, traffic-driving programs, and new hires.
The following is a list of 10 U.S.-based steakhouses under 50 units that have made their mark in 2022.
Black Angus Steakhouse
Black Angus Steakhouse has spent the past year revamping its brand behind the leadership of Deborah Shapiro, who joined the company as vice president of growth. The new core tenets are quality, consistency, family, value, and heritage. The chain also updated its physical appearance, menu, promotions, off-premises channel, and retail offerings.
In February, the concept launched Black Angus Meat Market where guests can digitally order fresh meat, steak sauces and seasonings, T-shirts, platters, samplers, and a barbecue grill kit. Later during the summer, Black Angus created another website to facilitate nationwide, two-day shipping. The hand-cut meat is Cryovacked, frozen, and shipped with ice packs so the product keeps its quality.
Additionally, the steakhouse is using virtual brand Umami Burger—supplied by C3—to expand kitchen capacity and generate up to $1 million more per store annually.
Metropolitan Grill took a big step this year by adding two seasoned veterans to boost its award-winning wine program.
Chris Lara, with almost 35 years of experience in the hospitality industry, was appointed wine director. Much of his previous experience includes stints as a wine director/sommelier at several Seattle-based establishments, like Spinasse, Metropolitan Market, and Serafina & Cicchetti. Lara is an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers.
The other move was hiring Brandon Lervold as cellar master. He’s held management roles for more than two decades in the wine and beverage industry before landing the role with Metropolitan Grill. Lervold brings extensive experience in production, education, distribution, retail, restaurants, sales, and management.
Andiron, an upcoming steakhouse in Houston, announced its culinary team in late September.
Louis Maldonado, who brings experience from multiple Michelin star restaurants, joined as executive chef. He graduated from the California Culinary Academy in 2002 and spent time at The French Laundry (chef de cuisine), Mourad (culinary director), and Cortez (executive chef). At Cortez, he led the team to earn 1 Michelin star in 2008. Mario Da Silva is coming onboard as chef de cuisine. He graduated with a culinary degree in 2010 from the University of Yaracuy in Venezuela. He previously worked under chef Carlos Garcia at Alto Restaurant, a San Pellegrino top 50 restaurant in Latin America.
Andiron is described as a steakhouse that will “honor the traditional steakhouse while also offering a modern small plate progressive dining experience.” Construction is in its final stages, with a full wood-fired kitchen in place. It should open toward the end of 2022.
Even fine-dining concepts are looking to relieve customers of inflation spending.
Old Homestead, a steakhouse open since 1868, announced a $99 38-ounce porterhouse for two deal at its New York City location. To promote the special, the third-generation owners of Old Homestead, brothers Greg and Marc Sherry, created a broad-scale advertising campaign pitting their porterhouse pricing against other steakhouses around town. In its announcement, the concept noted that competitors such as Peter Luger, Porter House, and Wolfgang charge between $165-$200 for a comparable offering.
The restaurant is running several full-age ads in the New York Post, digital billboards around the Lincoln Tunnel, 30-second ad sports during the TODAY show and NFL games, a paid social media campaign, and LED ads on top of taxis.
The deal is available Tuesday-Sunday evenings at the NYC location only.
STK Steakhouse hauled in $331,000 in average weekly sales per restaurant in Q2, or $17.2 million in annualized AUV. That’s far above the $288,000 mark the steakhouse posted last year. Same-store sales rose 19.8 percent year-over-year and 81.9 percent on a three-year basis.
Manny Hilario, CEO of The ONE Group Hospitality, said STK is on step 1 of 10 of what it can do with brunch, which was introduced in 2021. The menu includes Hot Chicken Waffle, Wagyu Burger BKFT, Smoked Pork Belly Benedict, and bottomless mimosas.
“We are looking at elevating the drink programs, adding some new features on products,” Hilario said. “So there’s a lot of promoting and activities that we plan to really add interest to the daypart. Remembering that any brunch program that offers quality alcohol program is doing very well with the consumers. And it’s a fun day to go—particularly Sunday brunches is a very high time that people like going out. So we feel pretty good that we still have a lot of runway on brunch. And promoting and product will be, if you will, the two things that will help us elevate that daypart.”
Rib & Chop House
When Rib & Chop House experienced a post-COVID dine-in boom in summer 2021, the corporate team began to hear stories of customers trying to pay off restaurants so they could move up on the waiting list. It became a semi-regular occurrence.
After some brainstorming sessions, the steakhouse decided to fill this demand with a premium, $50 per month subscription program that would give guests $600 in gift cards annually, priority seating, a complimentary set of branded steak knives, 10 percent off each check, and anytime cancellation. Each store sets aside a certain number of tables so that members aren’t skipping the line to use a table that could’ve been given to a nonmember. Rib & Chop House uses a predictive model based on seating capacity, day of the week, activities in town, and memberships sold to determine how many tables to set aside. For example, if a store has 150 memberships and it’s Friday night, it may hold five or six tables.
The subscription is working well thus far, with memberships sold out at nearly all locations.
III Forks Prime Steakhouse
In the spring, III Forks announced that its Austin location began accepting bitcoin.
Guests inform their server at the time of checkout they would like to pay with Bitcoin, and the III Forks team presents them with a Bitpay invoice QR code to scan tableside. These transactions settle in seconds and allow for a seamless payment using the guest’s choice of crypto wallet.
“I don’t care if you come in and pay with an American Express or Visa or a Mastercard,” says Curtis Osmond, president of III Forks Prime Steakhouse. “I don’t care if you come in and pay with Bitcoin or some other currency. We’re taking it to another level to how you pay, and we want to make sure that it’s unique to you.”
In May, Steak 48 Chicago announced the appointment of new general manager Joe Taylor and executive chef Mathew Smith.
Taylor has more than 40 years of experience working in Chicago’s hospitality industry and previously held positions at several well-known Chicago restaurants like Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse and Mastro’s Steakhouse. He’s overseeing day-to-day operations and leading a restaurant team of over 100 employees. Smith comes with more than 20 years of culinary expertise,
“The combination of Chef Smith’s culinary talent and Joe Taylor’s leadership will only further enhance the total experience Steak 48 provides to our guests,” Jeffrey Matro, cofounder and CEO of Steak 48, said. “I’m confident that their passion and dedication will reinforce Steak 48 as a premiere fine dining steakhouse in the great city of Chicago.”
Ponderosa & Bonanza Steakhouses
Gregg Nettleton, president of Ponderosa and Bonanza Steakhouses believes buffet restaurants will persevere because of their ability to provide differentiated comfort and value.
In June, the company reported total sales were up 30 percent year-to-date compared to 2021 and grew 40 percent in the second quarter compared to the same period last year. Families in particular have returned in great frequency, Nettleton says. He estimates that some travel 30-60 minutes for a night out.
Discussions with franchisees about expansion have picked back up and several units are in the process of getting remodeled. According to the company’s website, ideal locations are between 2,000 to 5,000 square feet, depending on climate, space, configuration, clientele, and economics. Additionally food court or kiosk locations could be as small as 800 to 1,000 square feet. Ponderosa and Bonanza are targeting Midwestern and Southeastern states domestically and a handful of international markets, Egypt, Qatar, Taiwan, and United Arab Emirates.
Toca Madera Las Vegas
Toca Madera Las Vegas, a modern Mexican steakhouse, opened in early August.
The new restaurant brings a new menu that features popular Toca Madera dishes such as Sashimi Mexicano with ahi tuna, cucumber, avocado, pomegranate, chile de árbol, and leche de tigre, along with brand-new offerings created by Noble 33 corporate executive chef AJ McCloud, including the A5 Wagyu Tacos with crispy wonton, cilantro, and kizami wasabi. The farm-to-glass mixology program, led by beverage director Carla Lorenzo, emphasizes fresh, seasonal ingredients while offering a versatile selection of tequila and mezcal.
The 10,000-square-foot restaurant showcases warm finishes of handcrafted custom woodwork, plush velvet upholsteries, intimate lighting, and biophilic design.