One Steakhouse less

Every year nears its end, as a local secret, downtown restaurants sell gift cards at deep discounts, usually in the form of extra, slightly restricted “bonus” gift cards. For example, buy $100 and get an extra $20 that must be used from January 1st to March 31st of next year. Quite a bargain. We usually load up on these gift cards during the on-sale season. This past year, 2016, Sullivan’s Steakhouse was particularly generous by offering 25% discount. They have very good happy-hour menu and nice steaks. So we bought.

In the week of March 20th, I received a promotional email (a side-effect of buying those gift cards) that Sullivan is having a discount on their wines in preparation to their closure on March 31st. What!?!? How about my gift cards?

Immediately, I reserved a dinner. I arrived early and asked for the manager. “No,” she said. “Sullivan cannot buy back gift cards. You can use them at any of their restaurants. Sorry.” I thought so. But why are you closing? “Well, this is Seattle downtown. You know…”

Yes, within a 1-mile radius circle, in addition to Sullivan’s, there are Metro, Capital Grille, Brooklyn, Morton, Daniel’s Broiler, El Gaucho, and the new Butcher’s Table just for traditional steakhouses. There are also several Brazilian Steakhouses. It is quite a crowded scene.

Del Frisco’s Group of Texas, specialized in high-end steakhouses, owns the Sullivan chain. Seattle has about 25 restaurants per 10,000 households, ranked #5 in the US. In markets such as this, customers have unlimited choices and restaurants must be unique to survive. And that’s difficult for high-end steakhouses: good steaks, good sides, good drinks, good services, and high-prices. What really set a steakhouse apart from the next one enough to secure a loyal customer set? In this era that those who can afford steaks more frequently opt for something healthier, like seafoods. The conclusion seems to be that Seattle has one too many steakhouses and one must go.

I ended up spending my gift card (not really that difficult). As I walked out, I found myself enjoying the meal and company, but not really saddened by Sullivan’s disappearance. There are still many choices if I am in the mood for steaks. Oh, well.

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