LongHorn Steakhouse sells its new Porterhouse for Two for $39.99.
It’s tempting for steakhouse operators to stay on the sidelines while the effect of last summer’s record drought on cattle prices plays out. But LongHorn Steakhouse isn’t waiting around to see what happens. Instead, the chain is taking the offensive with a revamped menu that offers of variety of steak cuts and preparation methods more typically seen at high-end operations.
Give LongHorn credit. It’s tough operating in the steakhouse segment right now. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that beef prices rose 10 percent in 2011 and are on pace to climb an additional four to five percent in 2012. Sales are still strong, but margins are being squeezed.
So what about 2013? Even the experts won’t hazard a guess on that one. But the USDA’s Economic Research Service does say that “In the short term, drought conditions may lead to herd culling in response to higher feed costs and short term increases in the meat supply, decreasing prices for some meat products. That trend would reverse in time after product supplies shrink.”
No wonder some steakhouse operators have taken a wait-and-see approach. They’re staying in the game by adding a few less-costly non-steak protein options to their menus and tweaking steak menu prices until a definite beef price trend becomes clear.
LongHorn could have played it safe, too. But the chain chose instead to aggressively pitch steaks to customers instead. The company has broadened its steak lineup and given customers new tools they can use to pinpoint exactly what kind of steak they want.
The new LongHorn menu offers customers various sizes of seven different cuts— sirloin, filet, flat iron steak, strip steak, T-bone, porterhouse and rib eye. These “fresh, never frozen” steaks are prepared on the customer’s choice of hot steel or open fire char grills.
LongHorn’s extended steak lineup takes its cue from the upper stratosphere of the steakhouse segment, where a variety of cuts and plenty of in-depth descriptive information about them are standard. But does this new menu offer customers too many choices?
In case it might, LongHorn had added a new Steak Selection Guide to its menu.
“Our Steak Selection Guide sets us apart from other steakhouses by taking the guesswork out of ordering, and giving guests a tool to learn about and explore the wide variety of steak cuts and flavors we have available,” says LongHorn marketing executive v.p. John Fadool.
Another fixture from the big-ticket steakhouse world—a Porterhouse steak for two—now appears on the LongHorn menu. Here’s its description:
“A 30 oz. bone-in steak that offers the best of both worlds—a tender filet and robust strip in one. Designed to share, it is presented on a custom platter and served with new signature LongHorn Steak Sauce made tableside with chopped garlic, rosemary and orange peel. A head of golden roasted garlic is included to enhance the steak, as well as two sides and two salads.”
It’s a heck of deal at $39.99. Other new menu items are a bacon- and egg-topped Rancher’s Sirloin ($15.99 for an 8 oz. portion) and a white cheddar and bacon stuffed filet that costs $19.99 for a 7.oz.-portion.
LongHorn parent Darden plans to add 45 new LongHorn units in 2013, growing the brand’s footprint to 400 stores in 36 states. This menu enhancement is meant to provide momentum for this strong expansion push while continuing to move the needle on same-store sales for existing units. In an era when so many casual chains have come to rely on quarterly offerings of three-courses-for $15 or similar deals, it’s good to see another chain try something new and different.