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Why Do So Many Steakhouses Fail?

Have you ever driven by a new steakhouse in your city and thought to yourself, I should really give that place a try – only to drive by a few weeks later and find a seafood or Chinese restaurant in its place? Maybe it’s not even a restaurant anymore – maybe it’s a yoga studio or a dog grooming center. The point is, steakhouses are popping up and disappearing all over the place. Why is this?

Well, the first answer is that the restaurant business in general is a tough place to make it. Many people open restaurants without a realistic sense of what it’s going to take. As operations get underway, staff and owners quickly feel overwhelmed if they don’t have plenty of skill and experience from previous restaurants.

Now consider the fact that a steakhouse is particularly difficult to open and maintain at a high professional level. Why? People demand more when it comes to steak. This isn’t like ordering a burger at your local fast food joint – steakhouses are for people who take their beef seriously. And if someone opens a steakhouse without sufficient preparation, they’ll quickly find themselves looking for another line of work. Here are four of the main reasons why so many steakhouses fail.

1. They don’t source the highest quality beef

This is probably the number one reason why steakhouses fail – the steak itself just isn’t good enough. When you bite into a high quality piece of beef that’s been expertly prepared, you remember it. When the steak is mediocre (or worse), all you remember is that you’re not coming back to this joint!

2. They get too fancy with the menu

Some establishments get too “cute” with the menu, and they end up losing sight of what really matters in terms of a great steakhouse experience. Those places that have been around a long time, and enjoyed good levels of success in the community, usually keep things simple and focus on what they’re really good at.

3. They don’t hire a skilled chef

The untold secret of many failed steakhouses is that they tried to get away with inexperienced chefs. In many cases, they hire a chef who has literally no experience preparing steak, and expect that person to learn from online tutorials and books. No amount of instructional content can measure up to the professional training and hands-on experience of a top quality steakhouse chef.

4. They put too much emphasis (or not enough) on ambiance

We’ve all been to restaurants where it seems like they tried a little too hard to make the ambiance “cool” and inviting. And yet somehow, the place lacks warmth and character. On the other hand, some steakhouses go for a bare bones approach with the décor, and the effect backfires. Creating just the right atmosphere is a difficult thing to do – almost as difficult as creating just the right menu.

What are the signs of success?

A steakhouse that’s been around for a long time isn’t necessarily going to deliver a superior steak – but the chances are higher. Longevity is one of the signs of success when it comes to steakhouses. More importantly, look at what people have been saying about that steakhouse recently. Have they kept up with the times? Are they sourcing beef from local, sustainable, reputable sources? Do they keep skilled and trained chefs in the kitchen, and do they maintain excellence in service and atmosphere? If so, you can probably count on your experience being up there with the best.

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