Heather Cartonia, a 24-year-old clinic director at a medical spa who lives in Manhattan, recently spent her birthday dinner at a branch of STK, a six-restaurant steakhouse chain that markets itself as club-like, female friendly, and “sexy.” A DJ blasts music most nights. The menu offers small, medium, and large steaks from a filet medallion to a “cowboy rib steak.” “I feel like a traditional steakhouse is someplace you would go with your parents,” she says.
The industry is obviously keen to Ms. Cartonia’s sentiments and is making changes accordingly. In D.C., it has already happened to those “stodgy” bars with oak-paneling and red-leather banquettes—the ones that play those annoying Big Band-Sinatra-Dean Martin songs nobody cares to hear. And suddenly those bars are vanishing. The Mayflower bar is gone. The Library Bar at the St. Regis was torn up and modernized. It’s only the beginning.
I am reminded of what Jon Taffer said when I met him last fall. The host of Bar Rescue cautioned against chasing after trends:
The most basic of concepts are the ones that always last the longest. So when it gets to too trendy, when the next guy opens who’s trendier than you, you’re out of there. So when I do these concepts and develop these things, I want to be hip, I want to fit my market choice, but I don’t want to be trendy. And a neighborhood bar is never trendy. It fits that spot. That makes it last. And if you build the right relationships with your community, that’s the longest lasting of them all.