Opening a Steakhouse? 3 Things You Need to Know

Posted on October 30, 2013 by Leah Sikora

In this "meat and potatoes"-loving culture, opening a steakhouse is no easy task. Customer expectation is high, quality is paramount, and the competition can be stiff. A restaurateur with a solid business plan and expert industry knowledge will be more likely to find success. As a dish that is usually prepared with little culinary embellishment, a customer's quality expectation for steak is different than for most other dishes. Your restaurant should fill a niche, and it is important to identify from the beginning what type of steakhouse you would like to open and who your customer will be. Read on for the top three things you need to know when opening a steakhouse:

Photo: TheBusyBrain

1. What's Your Niche?
Steak is often thought of as an all-american dish, and has long been beloved by Americans. Steakhouses are a common offering in many cities and towns, so it is important to know the competition and determine how your restaurant will differ. Once known exclusively for being an upscale type of dining establishment, the steakhouse industry now offers some more affordable and family-friendly options. When opening a steakhouse you will need to determine the quality level, price point, and atmosphere you would like to offer your customer.

If you're just starting out, a high-end establishment might be a better choice. As a startup, you will likely not be able to compete with the prices of the chain steakhouses. Your menu, brand, and prices should match the quality of meat you serve. It is not a good idea to try to pass yourself off as a high-end steakhouse while serving mediocre cuts of meat. Likely your customers will go elsewhere for a more affordable option, or they will purchase from the grocery store. Preparing steak is not very difficult, and people often seek out steakhouses in order to enjoy a higher quality meat than they can normally purchase from the store. Also, consider offering quality non-meat options for the health-conscious, vegetarian, and vegan crowds.

2. Know Your Grades
If you're going to serve high-quality meat, you will need to know the USDA quality and yield grades. Not only will this be useful when you are purchasing meat, but your customers will appreciate your expert knowledge. Quality grades are an evaluation of the palatability of the meat which includes taste, texture, juiciness and tenderness. For beef, they are determined by assessing the degree of marbling in the meat and the age of the meat. Marbling refers to the intramuscular fat that gives the meat a look similar to marble. The amount and distribution of this fat is the primary factor in determining quality grades. The highest grade achievable is prime, the next is choice, then select, and standard is the lowest quality grade. Prime cuts of meat have abundant marbling, standard has trace or minimal marbling.

Other desirable qualities in cuts of meat include firmness, a fine texture, and a bright, cherry red color. Meat color becomes darker and texture coarsens as animals age. Grade evaluators also examine the animal to determine maturity. The more mature the animal, the less desirable the meat. The grade of the meat maturity is given a grade A through E. A grade cuts should be soft and bright, cherry red. E grade cuts are coarse and dark red. The marbling and maturity grades are combined to determine the final grade. Yield grades will be less important to customers, but should be a factor for you when purchasing meat.

Offering prime-graded cuts is a unique advantage to owning a steakhouse, as these cuts of meat are infrequently available to the average consumer. Less than 2% of beef production in the U.S. results in prime meat. The customer looking for a truly top quality steak must often visit a steakhouse in order to enjoy it. It is also important to look into other factors that can improve the quality and taste of your steak. Aging beef cuts has become a popular trend among high-end steakhouses, and the process of aging is very difficult to achieve at home. Do your research and learn how to age safely or hire an expert if you are interested in offering aged steaks. The right equipment will also be essential to offering something different for your customers than they can cook at home. You may need specialty freezers, broilers, or grills.

3. Know Your Industry
The beef industry is ever in flux as cattle populations can be affected by a variety of environmental, political, and socio-economic factors. It is important to stay up-to-date and understand the current events that could affect the availability of your menu items and their prices. For example, cattle prices have recently been climbing in the U.S. due to a decreased supply. Be sure to follow some industry experts to understand how developments like this one could affect your restaurant.

For information on how we can help you with online training for your steakhouse, contact us today. If you are interested in opening a seafood restaurant, rather than a steakhouse, click here for more information.