Landry's to Buy Morton's: Here's Our Wish List for Its Rebirth

Categories: Food News
Houston-based restaurateur Tilman Fertitta of Landry's Inc. has acquired 90 percent of Morton's shares, he announced Wednesday, reports Chicago Business. The purchase means he'll own Morton's without shareholders' approval. Shareholders had been trying to block the purchase because they believed the stocks were undervalued.

In Florida, Morton's resides in Boca Raton, Coral Gables, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando, and West Palm. Eater reports that the Miami Beach location shuttered in today's news. Currently, there are more than 70 Morton's in 26 states.

Landry's started as Landry's Seafood House in Katy, Texas, and Willie G's Seafood and Steak House in Houston. It's the company behind the Houston and Denver Aquariums, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Rainforest Cafe, and Oceanaire Seafood Room in Washington, D.C. Most recently, the company bought McCormick & Schmick's.

Fertitta promised Morton's will be "refreshed and modernized" under his ownership. Yet we wonder if that's the case, considering the track record of the current holdings. In this area, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Rainforest Cafe are not exactly beloved

Though we're not expecting a dazzling transformation, we can dream. That's what a wish list is for, right? After the jump, our five points.

5) Hire and train local characters
Personalize steak-house culture by hiring as many locals with charisma for the front of the house. Train them in knowing about the area, particularly in places that are tourist destinations. Carving that as a signature of Morton's can lure visitors.

4) Update the design
Choose a known designer -- as Jose Andres has -- and come up with a signature look that's more exciting than the God's-waiting-room-meets-'80s-men's-club motif.

3) Get in on the heirloom and local thing
Find and support a collection of farms like Ayrshire -- raising heirloom breeds of pig and cattle -- and make it your thing. It's not so out of the question since Miami corporate hotels are doing it for pigs and buying whole hogs. While we're at it, support local fish vendors and promote local seafood, perhaps a fancier place than Southport Raw Bar, and offer raw oysters from the Gulf.

2) Promote the chef at each restaurant
Wolfgang Puck does it. Michael Mina does it. Pioneer the area's chef-driven cuisine by hiring and touting a progressive chef. Promoting individual chefs helps drives the area's cuisine and culls loyalty with locals.

1) Find a soul

Whether it's here or Miami, we've got enough corporate steak houses in town. What we don't have are steak houses with soul. Take a tour of places like Doe's Eat Place in Greenville, Mississippi, for direction. We know it's asking a lot, but find a way to infuse a soul.

Anything to add to the list? Add your suggestions in the comments.

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"Hire and train local characters...Update the Design...Get in on the heirloom and local thing...Promote the chef at each restaurant...Find a soul..."

Corporate. Multinational. Chain. Restaurant.

Nice dream, but this isn't about development or dining. This is about positive quarterlies and assimilating into the Borg collective--less local, less interesting, more standardized, more repeatable. McDonald's at $50 a plate.

Thomas Angyal
Thomas Angyal

The Rainforest and Bubba may not be the best for a comparison as far as what Landrys is planning. I have been to all there concepts and can tell you that Oceanair is wonderful as well as MCcormick n Schmicks. If the Landrys group can take this rest. chain to the same level I feel they will have a great front runner such as Capital Grille, Berns and some other top notch chains across the US. I have worked and help develope alot of the Cap. Grilles training , having worked for them for a decade and opening 10 of there concepts. Best of Luck to Landrys. 

                                                                                  Ex Trainer CGDC                                                                                                                           Thomas Angyal

Ware Cornell
Ware Cornell

If I owned Morton's I would eat every night at Bern's Steak House in Tampa until I understood how they do it, and then hire away the most senior person I could find and have that experience re-created in every Morton's in America.

Fat Hand
Fat Hand

I don't know anything about the restaurant business, but any company that has anything to do with Bubba Gump's sounds awful. And then throw Rainforest Cafe on top of that? Kill me. So my suggestion to Landry's is to think about the restaurants you already own, and do the opposite.

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