America's steakhouses are getting girlier

Del Frisco's, lobster, steakRobert Libetti/ Business InsiderSteak or lobster… a difficult choice pictured at Del Frisco’s in Rockefeller Center

At least at Del Frisco’s, one of the country’s largest high-end steakhouse chains, Americans are starting to eat less steak and more seafood.

This is troubling for the simple fact that seafood does not cost as much as steak at Del Frisco’s.

And it turns out the gender balance of the clientele could be a factor.

“We’ve actually seen a shifting in our core comp group of a little bit heavier seafood, which is still great offerings, but the average price of some of our seafood items isn’t the same as some of our high end steaks,” said Thomas Pennison, the company’s CFO, on an earnings call on Friday.

So checks are coming in lighter.

In fact, “lighter” is a trend. Americans are drinking lighter wines — Sauvignon Blancs instead of Cabernets, for example. That’s the difference between selling a $40 bottle of wine and a $200 bottle of wine.

That’s a big deal to Del Frisco’s, which at least in New York City, has been known to throw “Magnum parties” for its most loyal customers, has had a “name your price” policy for its 1997 magnum of Harlan, and can do $8 million in wine sales a year.

You can attribute part of the shift towards lighter drinks and fare to a trend that’s been going on at steakhouses for about a decade: More catering to women.

“So 10, 15 years ago, when you were building white tablecloth steakhouses, you were building restaurants that were frankly male dominated,” said CEO Mark Medansky on the call.

“You were building traditional looking steakhouses with wood paneling and white tablecloth and building a menu with big bone in steaks and big NapaCabs [Napa Cabernets] and trying to attract the businessman versus the businessperson. And not only do we as a company look at our internal base of guests as female and male driven, we look at that with our guest base. So we — through the designer restaurant, through the menus that we put together, we’ve really toned down just the big masculinity of the steakhouse brand.”

So steakhouses are getting lighter and girlier. We’re all going to have to make some adjustments.

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