At a time when the dining consumer increasingly demands culinary innovation, high levels of food quality and freshness, and superior service in modern settings, Homestyle Dining LLC has evolved into a restaurant company offering three steakhouse concepts in the casual dining, fast-casual and family buffet categories with a focus on high-quality, innovative menus at affordable prices. During the past few years, under the leadership and vision of CEO Tom Sacco, Homestyle Dining has embarked on the revitalization of one legacy brand, Ponderosa Steakhouse, the complete repositioning of Bonanza Steakhouse into the full-service Bonanza Steak & BBQ, and the launch of the nation’s first, fast-casual steakhouse, Bo’s Steak & Grill.
At the start of 2015, all three brands are on plan to redefine their categories by incorporating significant culinary upgrades built around America’s love affair with steak. To support that growth and innovation, Homestyle Dining has bolstered its management team with key appointments and promotions adding strength and depth to its culinary, operations, finance, legal, and marketing capabilities.
“2014 was a remarkable year for Homestyle Dining as we made significant progress achieving our vision to become America’s destination for great steak,” said Tom Sacco, CEO, Homestyle Dining LLC. “Fifty years ago, our legacy brands, Ponderosa and Bonanza Steakhouse, were pioneers in the family dining and buffet category, and now we’ve updated our Ponderosa brand into the 21st Century without losing familiarity. We’ve completely repositioned Bonanza to become the full-service Bonanza Steak & BBQ and a leader in the casual dining steakhouse segment, and we’ve introduced an entirely new dining concept with Bo’s Steak & Grill, America’s first fast-casual steakhouse moving the steakhouse industry ahead by quantum leaps and bounds. All three concepts are winning the hearts and pocketbooks of our guests and we look forward to continued growth through innovation in 2015 and beyond.”
Notable Milestones for All Three Brands in 2014
Ponderosa Steakhouse: The 50-year old, family dining and buffet concept continued to embrace change with more than 50 percent of the 150 Ponderosa restaurants across the United States undergoing a refresh with expanded menu offerings on the food bar and across the entire entrée line-up. The new menu meets the needs of guests, who crave longtime favorites and who also want to explore more relevant offerings including healthier options. Interiors also received enhancements, brightened with a new color scheme, lighting, graphics, menu boards and food bar design. Refreshed restaurants are already realizing double-digit increases in sales and guest counts. Also in 2014, Ponderosa Steakhouse continued its international expansion, opening its first location in Cairo, Egypt, and a eighth restaurant in the U.A.E. Plans are underway to open more international locations, including Europe and Latin America.
Bonanza Steakhouse: Homestyle Dining announced a new era for the 52-year old Bonanza Steakhouse as the brand will transform into a modern, full-service concept called Bonanza Steak & BBQ. This new concept will celebrate Bonanza’s rich, American steakhouse heritage with an updated menu that will include authentic, Southern-style BBQ offerings. The new concept, which will incorporate an interior redesign with more modern elements built around a butcher house theme, will open its first location in Eureka, Mo., in the first half of 2015. Sacco believes the contemporary steakhouse concept changes highlighted by the elevated food quality, bold, authentic flavors, reasonable prices, and the attentive service of yesteryear will appeal to a changing demographic, particularly Millennials and Gen–Xers with young families.
Bo’s Steak & Grill: The newest member of the Homestyle Dining family, and one that advances into fast/fresh-casual territory, is Bo’s Steak & Grill. Hailed as the country’s first, fast-casual steakhouse, Homestyle opened the first Bo’s in Lindale, Tex., in May 2014. The concept features familiar American fare with a culinary twist and a farm-fresh, build-your-own salad bar – all at reasonable prices without sacrificing quality, flavor, atmosphere, or service. Sacco recounts that Bo’s was created to replicate the feeling of enjoying a backyard cookout or holiday meal with family and friends dining on familiar foods they remember from childhood, but with bolder flavors and contemporary ingredient variations. Guests order at a counter, yet receive full-service attention tableside. Bo’s also offers signature cocktails, local wine, craft beer and specialty Margaritas. As Bo’s Steak & Grill nears its one-year anniversary, Homestyle Dining expects will announce its first franchisee in the first quarter of 2015.
New Hires, Promotions Bolster Homestyle Dining’s Management Team
As part of Homestyle Dining’s evolution, Sacco fortified the company’s executive ranks in 2014. “We’ve been very fortunate to find and retain truly quality people throughout our entire organization,” said Sacco. “The appointments we made in 2014 will support our continued growth and drive innovation across all segments of our business. These executives are extremely talented and with them on board, 2015 will also prove to be an outstanding year.”
Recent new hires and promotions include:
Brian Ripley was retained as CFO and has a proven record of executive leadership within the restaurant industry including senior roles for the prior 22 years with CMR Partners, LLP, where he last served as president, and CMR Associates, LLC, where he also was president one of Ponderosa’s largest franchisees. Brian served as Ponderosa franchisee association president before joining the corporate ranks at Homestyle Dining. Brian also served as a senior management consultant at Ford, Brinkerhoff & Koehler, P.C.
Ray Masters came aboard as Vice President, Purchasing, Distribution and Quality Assurance. His career spans 30 successful years in the foodservice industry, including most recently as part of Red Robin’s turn-around team, joining them in 1996 to help grow the company from 45 restaurants through its IPO in 2002 and beyond. Ray spent many years as an operator with Steak & Ale, eight years with Sysco Foods in multi-account sales, and three years as a pork producer for Johnsonville Foods. Ray also has a successful working relationship with the ownership of another one of Ponderosa’s largest franchisee groups – Inspired Concepts.
Jason Head joins Homestyle Dining as General Counsel. He brings more than 14 years of experience working with national franchise and technology companies and non-profit organizations, including in-house positions at Geeks on Call, ranked the top new franchise system by Entrepreneur Magazine in 2005 and Shenandoah Valley National Bank. In 2007, he began his own law practice, working with leading franchise systems ServiStar, The Chocolate Room and Liberty Tax. Before coming to Homestyle Dining, Jason held a senior position with an international ministry, Christ for Nations, Inc.
Rick Kirk was recently retained as Vice President, Company Operations, where he has 20 years of restaurant industry experience, including senior roles with Buffet, Inc., where he rose to Executive Vice President of Special Projects and Divisional Vice President of Operations. Rick’s expertise in the steakhouse and buffet segments identifying areas for improvement to enhance sales, cost controls and profitability are welcomed and valued in today’s economy.
Brian Crawford was brought on as Corporate Executive Chef and is responsible for the ideation and menu offerings at Homestyle Dining’s three restaurant brands. He brings more than 25 years of experience, serving in various culinary capacities, including product and concept development. Crawford has worked with several leading restaurant chains including TGI Fridays, where he helped lead innovation in product development. Top in his class at the Culinary Institute of America, he has also owned and operated his own dining establishments.
Jill Gouge-Laird joined Homestyle Dining in December as its Vice President of Marketing and will lead the company’s branding, marketing, advertising, and communications programs. She joins Sacco’s team after nearly 14 years with Buffet Partners L.P., owners and operators of Furr’s Fresh Buffets, where she most recently served as Director of Marketing. Before her time at Furr’s, Jill worked on the Ponderosa business for the advertising agency that managed the Ponderosa business.
Plano, Texas-based Homestyle Dining LLC owns, operates and franchises family-focused restaurants offering the best, affordable steakhouse dining concepts throughout the United States and internationally under the Ponderosa Steakhouse, Bonanza Steak & BBQ and Bo’s Steak & Grill brands. Homestyle Dining now effectively owns, operates and franchises concepts in the casual dining, fast casual and family buffet categories with a focus on high-quality, innovative menus at reasonable prices.