Restaurant Development & Design


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4 8 • R E S T A U R A N T D E V E L O P M E N T + D E S I G N • W I N T E R 2 0 1 4 BACK AT THE RANCH BONANZA-PONDEROSA Brand Refresh Targets a New Generation BY DANA TANYERI, Managing Editor G et ready for a new season of Bonanza. Not the 1960s TV show featuring Ben Cartwright and his sons' adventures on the Ponderosa Ranch, but the steakhouse chain whose concept was inspired by the show 50 years ago. Along with sister chain Ponderosa Steakhouse, which hits the 50- year milestone next year, Bonanza is being rebranded and refreshed for a new genera- tion — one increasingly less likely to know or identify with the TV show, its characters or the Old West themes on which it and Ponderosa were built. Plano, Texas-based Homestyle Din- ing LLC owns, operates and franchises 223 restaurants throughout the United States and internationally — 80 percent under the Ponderosa Steakhouse grill and buffet-style restaurant brand and the balance as full-service Bonanza Steakhouses that feature large salad bars. While the service formats differ somewhat, both brands feature similar menus. And both concepts will imple- ment key elements of the company's newly launched culinary and design refresh. On the design side, those ele- ments include new colors, lighting, wall coverings, graphics, menu boards and updated styles of presentation on the all- important cold- and hot-food bars. President and CEO Tom Sacco, who re-joined the company in 2012, leads the refresh campaign. He headed up operations for Bonanza back in the late 1980s, before the two brands merged under Metromedia Steakhouse Co. That company fled for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008 and reemerged in 2009 as Homestyle Dining LLC. Vowing to preserve the brands' lega- cies but bring them back to relevancy and proftability, Sacco and his team spent more than a year developing the change strategy, which made its debut at a test unit in Massena, N.Y., last fall. As Sacco describes it, the challenge was twofold: to increase the appeal of the aging brands to younger guests without alienating their older, loyal clientele and to devise a refresh plan that would be fnancially palatable for the heavily franchised system in a still lackluster economy. "We had to be very smart economi- cally to make sure the franchisees are successful and could afford to do this, Banners sporting images of farm-fresh ingredients and ag- ricultural settings, underscored with key brand messages, hang from the dining room's ceiling.

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