Cattlemen’s Steakhouse Inc.
Cattlemen’s Steakhouse Inc. (Cattlemen’s) opened its doors in 1910 to feed cowboys, ranchers and cattle haulers working in the stockyards of Oklahoma City, Okla. Over the years, the restaurant has embraced a rough and rowdy history in true Old West fashion.
“Around 1945, the original owner, who was a bootlegger, lost the restaurant in a dice game to the Wade family,” notes Dick Stubbs, current owner and president of Cattlemen’s. “They owned it for another 45 years before I purchased it in 1990. At that time, the business was 80 years old. We have done marketing a little differently and our customer base has grown much larger than it was before. We changed the name, formerly Cattlemen’s Café, to its current designation.”
Stubbs has been in the food service industry for 56 years. Having owned restaurants previously – with the first one dating back to 1978 – he is the first to say that business at Cattlemen’s is a little different.
“We are one of the top three restaurants in Oklahoma City in terms of volume,” he explains. “We serve a steak-centric breakfast, lunch and dinner menu to around 10,000 customers every week. We have won best local steakhouse 20 years in a row.”
Well-done Food Service
Cattlemen’s rich history plays a role in the restaurant’s popularity; however, internal operations keep diners coming back for more. “We try our best to please every customer,” Stubbs elaborates. “We really work at that and don’t just say it. Most of our competition is chain restaurants, but we are able to stay more focused than those larger brands. We want to provide value, not by having the lowest price, but in terms of having customers feel they are getting their money’s worth. From a price standpoint, we’re a little higher than casual steak chains, but a lot lower than high-end steakhouses.”
The restaurant employs approximately 170 people with the ability to seat and serve 295 palates on a standard business day. However, Stubbs notes his team has overflow seating for another 150 customers next door.
The well-maintained building averages $170,000 annually on repairs and replacements. “Last year we replaced three of our five roofs,” he recounts. “We are constantly replacing refrigeration, air conditioning and other equipment.”
Maintaining the company’s physical assets is of utmost importance to Stubbs and the team. “When we first took over, there was an image problem in our part of the city,” he explains. “We worked with our merchant partners in the neighborhood to form a Main Street area. Together, we have turned the image of this area around, but it took almost eight years. Every store in our part of the city is independently owned and operated, us included.”
Some Things Never Change
While the exterior shell of Cattlemen’s continues to change as the years go by, inside one important factor remains the same: the food. “Our niche is steak for every meal,” Stubbs states. “That really doesn’t change much. Our menu has been pretty consistent for the 23 years I’ve owned the restaurant. We prepare pretty much everything from scratch. We do our own baking and cut about 50 percent of our steaks. For the rest, we work with a custom cutter who ages and cuts the meat to our specifications.”
While the entire country was sent reeling throughout the recent recession, Stubbs says he has seen major growth in the region over the last few years. “As far as the local area, we have just gone through about five years of tremendous economic viability and new construction, which caused more commercial activity,” he says. “I think nationally, things are stabilizing, but as long as we have over-regulation, that growth will be slow. I think we will have an adjustment with new health care laws that might drive us down in terms of customer base, with new potential for price increases. The good news, however, is that we are at a point now where we have to turn customers away every day because we are so packed.”
Stubbs goes on to note that customer counts are Cattlemen’s key to success. “I receive a nightly report on how many people were served at each meal period, broken down by sales for our banquet and the restaurant,” he says. “Virtually everyone in the city knows who we are and knows us as a great restaurant. We have an extremely positive reputation in the city.”
Cattlemen’s esteemed reputation will continue to carry the business, as Stubbs and the team keep serving up tasty steaks. With a booming client base and a unique history, Cattlemen’s Steakhouse Inc. will continue to build upon a southwestern legacy.