What is in this article?:
- Homestyle Dining CEO talks new execs, prototypes
- Steakhouse for the next generation
Sacco was named president and CEO for the Ponderosa and Bonanza parent in February 2013.
Steakhouse for the next generation
What can you share about the new prototype you're planning?
I can’t give you too much detail, but the code name for it is “Steakhouse Next Generation.” We’re taking our current brands and moving them into a direction where we think nobody has been. There’s a lot of retro-history … but it’s very contemporary.
What’s your target customer?
[The new steakhouse] would do very well with the folks who would dine, let’s say, at a Chipotle or people that would maybe go to Whiskey Cake [a Plano, Texas casual-dining concept from Front Burner Restaurants, the parent to Twin Peaks]. It will have those kinds of urban, hip elements. It’s exciting.
What are your challenges?
It’s a tough time in the industry right now because commodities are all over the place.prices are up. Beef prices are up. Our operators are under pressure, but last year was a good year for us. The system as a whole was up almost two points. We’re making some progress and seeing guest-count growth.
Are there opportunities for the buffet segment in this market?
The buffet segment as a whole is challenged, because it has expanded to the point where there is not much else you can do. It has become so protein-driven, and so one-up-man-ship.
We’re stepping back and looking at the products and putting an emphasis on quality as opposed to quantity. … We want people to say Ponderosa and Bonanza have great salads or great breads. … We’re looking at how to enhance the quality of the products. That’s the direction we're going, and we’re getting traction with that.
What themes are you focusing on now?
We’re focusing on getting back to basics. We’re focusing on a lot of scratch-baked, scratch-made products in house. Most of our restaurants have in-house bakeries, but hardly anyone knows that. We make all of our soups in house, and I’d put them up against any full-service, casual-dining restaurant. There’s a huge emphasis being placed back on quality, and the focus is on guest service.
You have talked about discussions for developing the Ponderosa brand in Egypt. What is your view toward international development?
We’re in a bunch of international markets. We’re in Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines and all over the Middle East in Qatar, Dubai, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. We’re talking to people inright now. We’ve got a lot of activity going on. They like steaks overseas. Egypt is a brand new country sale for us.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: March 15, 2013 An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Paris Texas Hardware.