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Let Them Eat Steak - They Are!
By Thomas J. Haas

Remember yesteryear, when going out to eat was not a way of life, but meant a birthday, holiday, or other major occasion. That seems like many moons ago.

When you did go out, the adults always wanted a steak, prime rib, or maybe lobster, (Clam Box, Westport, CT), but for the kids (no rights) it was chopped steak, or chicken. If I made a move to the big beef, as I was known to do once in a while, my shins would have the imprint of my father's size 10, D width, Coward shoes.

Once, I visited my brother, who is truly on the tight side. We went to Manero's Steak House in Manhasset, Long Island. He ordered stuffed lobster, and being his kid brother, I thought what was good for the goose was good enough for me, as well. When he turned purple with rage, I knew I had better switch back to the chopped meat and beg for mercy, and possibly mushroom sauce.

What's happening today in restaurant land? The answer is the world is eating steak and lobster at prices that made that stuffed lobster at Manero's sound like a side order of garlic bread in today's world.

Just look at the great success of Morton's. Look as well at Ruth's Chris, The Palm, Smith and Wollensky, Capital Grill, Papas Steak House, Sullivan's, Del Frisco, the renown St. Elmos in Indianapolis. Check out such major names entering the steak house business as Tony Vallone - Vallone's in Houston, Emeril's Del Monico Steak House, and Charlie Palmer's in Las Vegas. Or, how about Dicky Brennan's magnificent new steak house in New Orleans, or Gibson's, Eli's or Gene & Georgetti's in Chicago running stronger than ever. Also, Gallagher's, Peter Luger, Ben Benson's, Pietro's, The Post House, and Sparks, with one of the best wine lists, with the exception of Bern's Steak House in Tampa.

Let's not discuss the success of Outback, which continues to set new records, or the turnaround at Sizzler by re-emphasis on, you guessed it, steak.

Eating out at the upper strata level of restaurants is not cheap, and sometimes can be confusing, as the customer attempts to justify the expense by deciphering what it was that they ate, and whether it was memorable and worth the cost of the experience.

Steak, chops and lobsters keep the experience manageable, and within the comfort zone of non-foodies, who make up a substantial portion of the market. Keep it simple - great hash browns, potatoes au gratin, cottage fries, super veggies, good salads with crumpled blue cheese, something simple and light for dessert such as cheesecake, and don't forget the bar - oversized drinks, and a good wine list, which all spells value to a good portion of the marketplace.

Consumers love their meat and potatoes, and when it comes to lobster, that's an experience. In Washington D.C. you do not have Restaurant Row, you have Steak House Alley. In a one or two block radius you will find The Palm, Ruth's Chris, Sam & Harry's, Capital Grill, and Smith & Wollensky. Incredible! Where's the beef? It's all around 19th Street N.W. in D.C.

So, when we talk about hot food trends, hot concepts, hot, hot, hot (not Tabasco) we are talking steak, big time. Thai food is great, Asian, Pacific Rim, Italian, French - great, but the cry from the patrons is "Let Me Eat Steak" - the new and improved dining phenomena of the New Millennium.

Thomas J. Haas is President of Thomas J. Haas & Associates, Inc. Mr. Haas is a food service industry consultant specializing in strategic marketing, and is a leading analyst in the industry. Mr. Haas can be contacted regarding consulting and public speaking engagements by e-mail at

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