The popularity of steakhouses often ebbs and flows with the economic tides. When things are great, Americans like to treat themselves to a steak dinner. When a recession strikes, fancy cuts of meat are off the menu.
And while Americans generally love their steak, some dine-in chains specializing in meat have experienced challenges thanks to changing conditions over the years. Others have managed to reinvent themselves and continue on as customer favorites.
Last year, Restaurant Business reported that steakhouse chains were winning the pandemic recovery race as hungry diners returned in droves and were ready to splurge. Both high-end and mid-tier chains managed to pull in sales higher that year than in 2019.
With that in mind, the sunny side of the pandemic may be the perfect setting to pull off a major comeback for a struggling brand. Here are some top chains doing just that.
And don't miss 8 Secrets Texas Roadhouse Employees Don't Want You to Know.
Black Angus Steakhouse
Black Angus Steakhouse got its start in 1964 in Seattle, Wash., offering steak, soup, salad, and a baked potato for $2.99. The casual-dining concept was popular with families and eventually grew to over 100 locations.
By 2009, Black Angus was down to 69 restaurants and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the second time, citing struggles due to the economic recession.
But the chain completely overhauled its menu and in 2011 introduced a new BullsEye Bar concept which brought a livelier bar scene to many of its locations. The revitalization managed to improve sales and brought the chain out of its slump. In 2013, Black Angus recorded 16 consecutive quarters of same-store sales increases.
While it shuttered all of its locations at its now-home base of California during the pandemic, it has since brushed itself off to refocus on new strategies. As of this year, the brand has announced it is diving into retail, selling its very own brand of raw, hand-cut restaurant-quality steaks.
The Black Angus Meat Market website allows shoppers to order online before picking up their purchases in-store for a DIY home experience.
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Logan's Roadhouse had everything going for it when it first opened in Lexington, Ky. in 1991. Founder David Wachtel was an industry vet and former CEO of the ultra-popular restaurant chain Shoney's. With tight management and attention toward quality standards across all of Logan's restaurants, the chain saw growing success. By 1995, Logan's went public.
But its success from the '90s and early aughts was short-lived as foot traffic slowed down. The chain went bankrupt in late 2016 with debt reorganization following shortly after. Sales dragged for the following three years, and locations were shuttered by the dozens—with 119 units dropping off in the following seven years.
Finally, Logan's parent company CraftWorks dissolved in March of 2020, which led to the steakhouse temporarily shuttering all of its locations and laying off most of its employees due to the bankruptcy.
While things may have looked bleak for Logan's for a while, a change in management seems to have turned things around for the chain.
In 2021, the steakhouse saw 45 consecutive weeks of solid sales with a 35% growth over the year before. The company mostly credits a menu redesign it unveiled that year, which simplified offerings and upgraded the quality of ingredients, like its made-from-scratch buns on half-pound steakburgers and sandwiches.
Additionally, the brand rolled out a new loyalty program and digital app to further engage customers. While the restructuring has only recently taken off, so far Logan's has seen a positive reception for its comeback strategy.
In the '90s, if Americans wanted a little taste of Australia, all they had to do was take a trip to their local Outback, which was brimming with enthusiastic BBQ lovers.
While the popular chain may not be exactly what Australians have historically eaten (at least according to them), it has been one of the most popular steakhouse brands in America for years.
But the chain hasn't been without its struggles. Outback's footprint has declined more than 10% since 2011, from 775 locations to 694 in 2021, according to Restaurant Business.
While it shrunk in size over the past ten years, it has emerged from the pandemic with renewed energy. In May, the chain revealed its plans for a new prototype restaurant, which is smaller in size than previous locations. It also has a revamped interior design that will allow it to devote more space to new catering services.
This year, Outback opened three of its Next Gen restaurants—Fort Worth, Texas, Steele Creek, N.C., and Columbus, Ohio. The company also plans to build 75 to 100 additional restaurants in the U.S., reestablishing its growing footprint.
Del Frisco's Restaurant Group
Del Frisco's is an upscale fine dining group consisting of the Double Eagle and Del Fresco's Grille brands. The restaurant operator has received numerous awards and accolades for its top-notch steakhouses. Prior to selling it off, the group also owned Sullivan's Steakhouses and then later acquired Barcelona Wine Bar and Bartaco.
But even fine-dining brands can fall on hard times. In 2015, the Texas-based company saw its sales drop, which repeated again in 2017. In 2018, the brand agreed to sell its struggling Sullivan's Steakhouse partner to Romano's Macaroni Grill.
When sales didn't pick up in 2019, Del Frisco's announced a net loss of $6.4 million in revenues and said it was going private.
The chain was eventually bought by Landry's, the owner and operator of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company and the Rainforest Café, but more importantly, a series of successful high-end steakhouses like Mastro's, Morton's, Vic&Anthony's, Strip House, and Brenner's.
Currently, the group has 30 restaurants across 13 states and Washington, D.C. With the acquisition, the brand is continuing its growth under the corporation's wing.