but the range in service offered is wide-from walk-up to high-end service. The size of the steak served varies from a few ounces of a less expensive cut of beef to a 24-ounce porterhouse served on formal china on a white tablecloth. Steakhouses present the operator with food and labor cost combinations that are found in few restaurants.
It is common for food costs to be as high as 50 percent of gross sales, whereas the labor cost may be as low as 12 percent; compare this to full-service restaurants, with about 34 percent food cost and 24 to 28 percent labor costs. Another difference: A high percentage of steakhouse customers are men. They enjoy aged beef, in which the enzymes have broken down much of the connective tissue, yielding a distinctive flavor and tenderness. The prototypical steak eater likes his steak slapped on a very hot grill or griddle so that the surface is seared and the next layer yields a cross-section of flavors.
Meat that has been wrapped in Cryovac, sealed, and refrigerated for several days is called wet aged. The meat is not dried out. Dry aging takes place under controlled temperature, humidity, and air flow, a process that causes weight loss of 15 percent or more. The two processes result in different flavors.
LORE OF STEAK
Steak lovers rhapsodize about their favorite form of steak and its preparation. Tenderloin steak is the most tender, cut from the strip of meat that runs along the animal's backbone and gets the least exercise.
T-bone steaks are cut from the small end of the loin and contain a T-shaped bone. Porterhouse steaks,
taken from the thick end of the short loin, have a T-bone and a sizable piece of tenderloin. (The Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn, New York, is known for serving a single steak dish-porterhouse, cut thick to serve two, three, or four people.) Most steakhouses promote their rib-eye steak, top sirloin, tenderloin,
and roasted prime rib. The New York strip steak, served in hundreds of steakhouses around the country, is a compact, dense, boneless cut of meat.
A Delmonico steak (or club steak) is a small, often boned steak taken from the front section of the short loin. Sirloin steaks come from just in front of the round, between the rump and the shank. The age of the meat and its treatment affect flavor, but the amount of marbling created by fat between the meat fibers affects flavor even more. High-end operations feel that about a million people are needed as a customer base. They require considerable investment in building, fixtures, and equipment.
They may not be in competition with the Outback, Lone Star, Steak and Ale, or other steakhouses at the low end or middle of the market. Midprice steakhouses like Stuart Anderson's Black Angus chain compete in another price bracket. Forty percent or more of the high-end operations serve well-aged beef and may have sales of more than $5 million a year. Low-end operations may do well with sales of $500,000 a year. High-end steakhouses expect to have a high percentage of wine and hard liquor sales. Low-end teakhouses may stick with beer and moderately priced wine. The high end may stock Kobe beef, imported from Japan, which may sell for $100 a pound.
In the year 2004, steakhouses were thriving and expanding. The medical community generally has argued that red meat, particularly highly marbled red meat, is good for neither the waistline nor the vascular system. However, the popularity of low-carb diets (e.g., the Atkins diet) had many consumers trading their pasta bowls for porterhouses-and loving it. Steak connoisseurs say that the taste is exquisite.
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