The steakhouse has had a manly reputation for quite some time. In 1905, actress Lillie Langtry tangled with New York’s iconic Keens Steakhouse over its strict “gentlemen-only” policy. Langtry – who was, as general manager Bonnie Jenkins calls her, “a woman before her time” – eventually won women the right to dine at Keens. While the steakhouse proudly advertised that “Ladies are in luck, they can dine at Keens,” Jenkins says there’s evidence suggesting Keens persisted in seating men and women in separate rooms in those early years.
Today, women are often the decision-makers in dining, and many forward-thinking restaurateurs have made women’s tastes a priority. But if marketing to women seems like a no-brainer, how a restaurant ought to go about doing so is not. Steakhouses have cut their own paths with women over the last decade or so, from Charlie Palmer’s subtle reminders that all are welcome to STK’s sexually charged ad campaigns. Last fall, Burwell’s Stone Fire Grill – which is more in the Charlie Palmer model than the STK model – came under fire thanks to an ill-advised lingerie-related slip-up. But more on that later. These steakhouses might have different methods, but the goal is the same: Convince women that the steakhouse doesn’t have to be a boy’s club.