By Flavor & The Menu
November 1, 2019
Black Angus Steakhouse is a heritage brand that’s been serving a loyal customer base since 1964. David Bolosan, senior director of product innovation and procurement, is keenly aware of how to appeal to the brand’s regulars, who tend to skew older than Millennials. “Although our target guests are in their forties and fifties, we do look to also cultivate younger diners,” he says.
A large part of that strategy celebrates Black Angus’ brand proposition and doesn’t move too far away from classic steakhouse fare. “If it’s too trendy, it gets lost,” says Bolosan. “If we cook high quality, scratch food that’s not too crazy—that’s what works. I think that kind of food also resonates with younger diners.”
Black Angus, based in Sherman Oaks, Calif., does want to tap into the plant-forward trend and is using its sides menu as a platform. “We’re known for our robust sides, but we’re trying to get more on-trend plant-based items onto that menu,” says Bolosan.
He has a new vegetable side dish in test, with the hopes of rolling it out as a limited-time offering (LTO) in January. “We call it baby cauliflower on the menu, but the product is Caulilini, produced by Mann Packing. It has a sweet, clean flavor and a great appearance with an open floret and tender texture,” says Bolosan. He simply seasons with salt and pepper, brushes with butter and grills it. “It’s just starting to get out in foodservice—we like being one of the first,” he says.
Heritage brands like Black Angus Steakhouse pull from a deep well of tradition, nostalgia and legacy. And although innovation is key, for David Bolosan, senior director of product innovation and procurement, that means looking back as well as looking forward.
“We have better luck with classic dishes than with trendy ones,” he says. “And when I saw Thomas Keller’s new TAK Room at Hudson Yards in New York, which serves old-time classics, I felt like we were in good company, running with our current LTO strategy.”
He tested a Steak and Lobster Thermidor last year, which he says “flew out the door.” It’s now running as an LTO for 10 weeks. The lobster is served in a sauce of cremini mushrooms, mustard, cream and Cognac. Instead of serving it in the shell, as it is classically done, the lobster is cut into pieces and presented in a skillet. A grilled steak buddies up to the skillet, making it a surf and turf.
“This is a check-driver for us, and the lobster presented that way helps with the value perception,” he says. Next up is Black Angus’ take on the old-school steak Oscar, which traditionally sees steak topped with crabmeat, asparagus and Béarnaise.
“We’ve stayed away from these classics for a while, but now we’re looking at them and seeing what fits operationally and what can be a driver for us,” says Bolosan.