Fire pits are a part of many Lazy Dog units All photos by Ron Ruggless

Fire pits are a part of many Lazy Dog units. All photos by Ron Ruggless

Lazy Dog expands amid tough casual-dining segment

Mountain-theme brands adds new units in Texas, California

Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar is expanding its footprint, adding a second restaurant in the Dallas area, planning a third in Texas and moving into Northern California, founder and CEO Chris Simms said last week.

As competition intensifies in the casual-dining segment, Lazy Dog has carved a niche with dog-friendly patios, a distinctive mountain-lodge décor, a vibrant bar that serves to midnight and extended weekend brunch hours.

The Huntington Beach, Calif.-based brand earlier this month debuted a new 9,356-square-foot Lazy Dog in Plano, Texas, bringing the brand’s total to 21 units in California, Nevada and Texas.

Simms said a third Texas unit will open Jan. 9 in Euless, Texas, and the company will open a restaurant in Folsom, Calif., northeast of Sacramento, soon thereafter.

Simms said the newer units are at least 8,000 square feet with patios. The planned Euless restaurant will cover 9,392 square feet with additional patio seating.

 “Our concept is definitely a suburban concept, so we have to have enough room to fit everybody in on Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” said Simms during a walk-through of the Plano restaurant.

“The sense of our concept is ‘family-to-table,’ so want to be the family place,” Simms said. “This Plano location has a large number of households with families and a strong sense of community.”

To further appeal to the suburban consumers, Lazy Dog has been expanding its brunch hours on Saturdays and Sundays with earlier openings in many locations.

“There’s a great trend in brunch,” Simms said. “We’ve pushed up our opening to 9 a.m. on the weekends to really capture that business. Not all of the restaurants are there yet. About half are there now, and the other half should be there in the next six months.”

The company has introduced a special brunch menu in those locations, Simms said, and those emphasize the Lazy Dog’s reliance on scratch cooking.

“In a world of pre-processed things, we want to buck that trend. We want to take it the other direction,” he said, which harkens back to the first unit opened in Huntington Beach in 2003. 

“We saw this trend in the industry where companies were buying pre-processed items,” Simms explained. “At the same time, our guests were becoming more sophisticated, watching the Food Network and shopping at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. They were much more interested in where their food was coming from.”

That evolution in dining led Lazy Dog to prepare its dressings and sauces in-house and also rely on techniques like braising pot roast and carnitas in the restaurant, he said.

The menu features items such as Campfire Pot Roast, bison meatloaf and braised lamb shanks. Best-selling appetizers are Cajun fries and edamame. A gluten-sensitive menu is also available. Prices range from $8.75 to $25.95.

Lazy Dog serves a full menu in the bar area, and restaurants generally are open until midnight.

“I kind of consider our bar a ‘sports bar for couples,’” Simms said. “It’s the kind of place where you can watch sports and still get a full, healthy menu. There aren’t people screaming at the screens.”

While Lazy Dog has modified the décor slightly in its newer units, such as using darker stains on beams, Simms said many aspects remain the same, such as real Aspen logs from Colorado used as a backdrop for the host stand and the fire-pit gathering area on the dog-welcoming patios.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless

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