The steaks get higher

It’s going to be a tough year for steak lovers. Operators are seeing higher beef costs—and menu prices are inching up as a result. Several factors are contributing to this trend, according to research by the Beef Checkoff:

  • Drought conditions have pushed up costs for cattle feed
  • Cow herds are shrinking
  • Far fewer ranchers are raising beef today
  • Beef exports are on the rise, cutting into domestic supply.

Improvements in weather conditions this year and a slight decrease in exports should ramp up supply a bit, but prices will most likely stay high throughout 2012.

In the meantime, customers still want their beef when they go out to eat at steakhouses and casual eateries. To satisfy this demand, operators are finding inventive ways to menu steak and add value to the plate. For one, they’re embracing cuts that may be easier on the wallet. The flat iron and teres major (petite tender) continue to grow in popularity; the latter was up 5 percent in 2011, says Mark Polzer, VP of Business Development for Certified Angus Beef. Sales of hanger steak increased 5 percent as well. In 2011, sales of premium-priced CAB beef to foodservice rose 10 percent.

Ts’ elusm Steakhouse
Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort, Worley, Idaho
A custom-built dry aging room and onsite fabrication combine to provide Ts’ elusm Steakhouse customers with top quality steaks at reasonable prices. For one of the restaurant’s signatures— Charred Baseball Top Sirloin—executive chef Adam Hegsted dry ages the loin primal, then cuts out the whole sirloin, dividing it into three 10-ounce baseball cuts. The cost-effective baseball steak, which sells for $20, gets its name from its nice round shape. “We chargrill it over an open flame fueled by locally harvested applewood (for smoke and sweetness) and mesquite (for heat),” says Hegsted. “It eats really well.”

Steak splurgers may opt for the Cedar Flamed Porterhouse ($50)—a generous cut that’s dramatically cooked tableside over wood soaked in red wine, then flamed with Scotch.

Foodservices of America, the casino’s broadliner, developed the dry aging program expressly for the property’s restaurants. Hegsted admits that beef prices are going up, but his signature items have to stay at the same level. One way he offsets losses is by menuing a Steak Sampler ($29)—smaller pieces of dry-aged top sirloin, Wagyu skirt steak and filet mignon—an entree that has proven to be profitable and popular.

Vic & Anthony’s
Houston, Texas-based, 4 locations
Vic & Anthony’s, a high-end concept under the Landry’s umbrella, entered the steakhouse-centric New York City market in March. While big slabs of prime beef are the draw, executive chef Brandi McHan offers a few twists.

“Everyone is looking for the traditional cuts, like bone-in ribeye, Porterhouse and New York Strip. Our base prices are about one dollar lower to get people in the door,” she reports. The least expensive steak—and one of the most popular—is the 8-ounce filet, priced at $39.95. Lunch specials include a Petite Filet au Poivre.

McHan purchases cut and portioned fresh prime steaks from Buckhead Beef, along with a few cuts of domestic Kobe beef, including skirt steak and strip. “The cost of beef has gone up and price adjustments have to be made occasionally,” says McHan, “but so far, guests aren’t complaining.”


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