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Since emerging from bankruptcy in 2012 and changing its name from Buffets Inc., Ovation Brands has been restaging its concepts.

Among Ovation Brand’s roughly 328 restaurants is the 10-unit Tahoe Joe’s Famous Steakhouse, based in Fresno, Calif., which opened last week a new prototype unit with plans for new growth.



With a Lake Tahoe-inspired Sierra mountain lodge theme, Tahoe Joe’s is the most high-end concept within the Ovation Brands family.

Founded in 1996, the chain is known for its steaks, chops, seafood and ribs grilled over an almond-wood fire. A signature item is Joe’s Steak, slow roasted for 19 hours, then rolled in cracked black pepper and grilled. A 10-ounce cut is $20.99.

With an average check in the high $20 range, Tahoe Joe’s is positioning itself as a more polished alternative to the LongHorn Steakhouse, Lone Star Steakhouse and Outback Steakhouse segment, which tends to average in the low $20s, said David Glennon, divisional vice president of Tahoe Joe’s.

“We see ourselves as the Ruth’s Chris of the every man,” he said.

The new restaurant in Chino, the chain’s first in Southern California, reflects a brand evolution since the recession that has proven fruitful.

While the 6,700-square-foot footprint hasn’t changed, the design is a more modern take on the rustic elements of previous locations.

“I think the décor package will resonate anywhere, in California and all the way to the East,” said Glennon. “From a price perspective, it brings value.”

Glennon said the chain has had 16 consecutive quarters of positive same-store sales, and units average about $4 million.

Other changes over the past few years have contributed.

After only serving dinner for years, the chain added lunch, including about 20 items under $10, to more directly compete with casual-dining competitors. Next came the addition of a Happy Hour with discounted appetizers, giving guests another reason to come in, said Glennon.

About three years ago, Tahoe Joe’s began offering large-party takeout for business meetings and family events, and that business alone has grown to about 3 percent to 7 percent of sales, depending on location, he said.

Glennon said a key differentiator is Tahoe Joe’s practice of “enlightened hospitality,” which includes training staffers to treat every guest as if they were a friend over for dinner.

Glennon said he couldn’t reveal growth plans, but more leases are in the works.

“We are on the cusp of it,” he said. “We are poised for growth.”

This story has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 7, 2014
  Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story misstated STK's projected openings. The ONE Group Hospitality Inc. expects to have 11 STK restaurants open by 2015.

Contact Lisa Jennings at lisa.jennings@penton.com.
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout