On the Line / Bar & Nightclub / What is a Steakhouse?

What is a Steakhouse?

A steakhouse is a primarily upscale restaurant that specializes in high-quality meat.

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1. What is a steakhouse?

A steakhouse is a primarily upscale restaurant that specializes in high-quality meat. Various steaks are served, including USDA Prime, Japanese Wagyu, tender filets, hefty porterhouses, and sometimes a selection of game meats and poultry. 

Beef is at its best, both in flavor and texture, at 18 to 24 months, so many steakhouses provide wet and dry-aged meats, and some dry-age their beef on premises for quality control. White linen tablecloths, polished dark wood accents, and attentive servers are hallmarks of the classic steakhouse. 

Modern steakhouses tend to be lighter, brighter, and less formal, but the atmosphere is almost always upscale, with prices to match. There are also less expensive chain steakhouses geared toward family-oriented patrons.

2. What is the history of steakhouses?

Steak historians say the first real steakhouse started in New York in the 1800s. The beef was once transported around the country through months-long cattle drives, but with the expansion of the railroad system into the West, ranchers could more easily ship cattle to cities and faraway places, like New York’s meatpacking district. 

Among the first to open was Peter Luger in Brooklyn and Keen’s and Delmonico’s in Manhattan. Legend has it that Abraham Lincoln loved the potatoes at Delmonico’s, which were grated and baked with cream. Vegetable sides have been part of steakhouse menus from the very beginning.

3. What is typically on a steakhouse menu?

Gourmet steak is the star of the menu, whether it’s a chain, a specialty restaurant like a Brazilian churrascaria, or a modern steakhouse with a celebrity chef. Customers expect top-tier, expertly-cooked delicacies that aren’t easily sourced by going to the local butcher. 

You’ll find chops from heritage breeds, giant Tomahawk steaks, bone-in prime rib, grass-fed filet mignon, and more – often accompanied by steakhouse sauces such as Bearnaise, mushroom sauce, and horseradish sauce.

Oysters and other raw bar selections are popular appetizers, and seafood often appears as part of Surf n’ Turf menus. The main course is usually served a la carte, and decadent sides round out the menu, including stuffed baked potatoes, creamed spinach, creamed corn, French onion soup, and mac n’ cheese.

Nearly all steakhouses have bar menus of the appropriate alcoholic drinks that include Martinis, crafty cocktails, and deep wine lists.

4. How do you start a steakhouse?

To start a steakhouse, you need to become a steak expert or hire one. Customers are highly tuned into the nuances of their steak — marbling, grade, tenderness, juiciness — so it’s essential to know your cuts and establish strong relationships with suppliers. 

With so many different types of meat available, each with a different taste and texture, hiring and training pro staff is key as they will serve as guides for the customers. And since the field is crowded with chains and celebrity chefs, naming and branding are crucial to making your establishment stand out.

5. How much does it cost to start a steakhouse?

Start-up costs for restaurants fluctuate widely depending on many factors, including location, size, materials, and food costs. We estimate the general range to be $95,000 to over $2 million, but the average is $275,000 for a leased building or $425,000 if you want to buy the space. 

Expect a steakhouse to be on the higher end of this scale. With the need for temperature and humidity-controlled rooms for storing meat, most spaces require at least some remodeling. Highly trained servers, sommeliers, and higher food and beverage expenses add to the bottom line.

6. Most popular types of steakhouses

The most popular types of steakhouses are family-friendly chains with hundreds of restaurants across the country. 

For most startups, however, this type of establishment is challenging because they can’t compete on price. A steakhouse experience that outperforms the chains on quality and atmosphere promises a better chance at success. 

Unique experiences, detailed sourcing information, transparent supply chains, and bigger, bolder flavors are growing trends. 


More than any other type of restaurant, steakhouses represent classic American dining and hold a special place in the hearts of restaurant-goers. Perennially popular for date nights, business meetings, and upscale family outings, they’re a go-to for special occasions and inspire customer loyalty.

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