The rebounding economy has whetted the public’s appetite for steak.
At least that’s the operating theory of several local restaurateurs.
Co-owner Jacob Dikhow closed 7 Bar and Grill, a 7,000-square-foot restaurant at 6545 Orchard Lake Road in West Bloomfield Township, on April 1 to convert it into a 250-seat steakhouse called Prime 29 of West Bloomfield.
“We researched the area, and after looking at restaurants, we noticed a lot of commonality — they were all basically the same thing,” he said. “A lot of places you go to, you see a format of true prime-aged beef, but you see it at a higher price point.”
Dikhow said steak prices at Prime 29, due to open Sunday, will range from $30 to $40.
Prime 29’s name is a nod to the aging process of prime steak. The optimal length of time to age a steak is 29 days. Steak is dry-aged in a controlled environment to get peak flavor.
Joe Vicari, CEO of Warren-based Andiamo Restaurant Group, is converting three Andiamo restaurants — in Bloomfield Township, Dearborn and Warren — into Joe Vicari’s Andiamo Italian Steakhouse Restaurants.
Vicari said changing customer tastes prompted the transformation. The conversion from Italian cuisine to Tuscan steakhouse could bring in 20 percent more volume, he said. “The market changes, and we have to change with it,” Vicari said. “Either you sit and don’t do anything and go out of business, or you continue to do research and development and adapt.”
Vicari said the menu at the new restaurants will be half prime steaks and chops and half classic Italian dishes.
“Detroit is a working-class town, a meat-and-potatoes type of town, and we feel that we are giving our customers the best of both with a half-Italian, half-a-steakhouse menu,” he said.
Andiamo Restaurant Group owns six Andiamo restaurants, three Joe Vicari’s Andiamo Italian Steakhouse Restaurants, four Rojo Mexican Bistro Restaurants, Joe Muer Seafood and Mesquite Creek.
In June, Beachwood, Ohio-based Hyde Park Restaurant Systems opened a Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse at 201 S. Old Woodward Ave. in the former Forte location in downtown Birmingham.
And longtime local restaurateur Matt Prentice is slated to open Detroit Prime at 32769 Northwestern Highway in Farmington Hills. It will serve USDA Prime value cuts such as skirt steak, short ribs, hanger steak and brisket. Menu prices have not been released.
Market data show the appetite for beef is rising. Darren Tristano, executive vice president of the Chicago-based food research firm Technomic Inc., said sales at steakhouses rose 3.5 percent between 2010 and 2011, generating $14 billion in sales nationwide.
“I think there is a comeback because, in general … the high-income groups have come to better employment numbers,” he said. “Operators are finding opportunity to sell into upper-low to high-income groups, and steak seems to be a great opportunity to do that.”
Tristano said many new steakhouses are in a relatively new restaurant segment called polished casual, which fits between fast casual and fine dining, giving customers a memorable experience at a lower cost.
Individual checks for steakhouses in the polished-casual segment averages $30 to $50, Tristano said.
“Steak is a familiar product, and to some extent, it falls into what many consumers call an upscale or special-occasion experience,” he said. “When you look at Ruth’s Chris Steak House or Morton’s The Steakhouse, 70 percent of their sales wind up on an expense report.”