The franchisor of the venerable Bonanza budget steakhouse chain has just unveiled a brand offshoot, Bonanza Steak & BBQ, in Eureka, Mo. As this sneak peek shows, it differs from the familiar ranch-themed concept in look and menu, with prices in the $13 range.
“We wanted to introduce a new component without saying ‘forget about the old stuff,’” says Homestyle Dining CEO Tom Sacco, who rejoined the franchisor in 2012. Old timers, as he calls them, will recognize the original Bonanza logo affixed to the front of the hostess stand and blueprints from old Bonanza units plastering the restroom walls. But the country-western theme is out, replaced with a butcher-shop vibe. Wall decor includes a butcher chart of a cow, a grouping of butcher blocks and cleavers, a backlit scale used to weigh cows and wallpaper meant to resemble what guests would see at a deli counter. Servers, too, wear deli-style, black and white full-bib aprons.
To keep its signature salad bar but set itself apart from the sister Ponderosa chain, Bonanza took a new approach. “Think Chipotle,” says Sacco. Instead of customers helping themselves, “salad tossers” prepare the $2.49 add-on as guests move down a line of 50-plus fresh ingredients, without touching the ingredients. “The cool thing is that [guests] interact with someone … it’s not a little salad that’s a formula that’s coming from a cooler in the back.”
Some older Bonanza customers have complained about losing unlimited trips to the salad bar, along with the options of getting bread and ice cream. For those diners, “we apologize and make them aware that [Bonanza] is a different concept … we’re trying to stay away from the buffet image,” says Sacco. He points those diners to the Ponderosa a few miles away if that’s what they are looking for.
One new add: an in-house smoker, which has helped Bonanza expand its menu while keeping some signature steaks. It’s now got a smokehouse chicken and smoked rib-eye in addition to the regular ones. And it’s smoking beyond meat; cold-smoked cheese is in the mac-and-cheese side. To entice diners, the smoker is positioned in the kitchen so that the hickory-smoke smell wafts into the dining room, Sacco says.