Critics Have Beef With Brooks Steakhouse Plan

goldencowA couple years ago, when a guy at Brooks first mentioned they were considering a restaurant next door to the Madison Avenue Flagship, I thought it was a great idea. I still do. I mean, assuming there’s a bar, won’t it be the ultimate place to have a drink among fellow trads?

And for guys who work in menswear, it’ll be the obvious place to rendez-vous for a cocktail:

“Drinks tomorrow?”

“Sure. Where?”

“Brooks, where else?”

But some don’t think it’s such a great idea. Writing for Forbes, Jonathan Salem Baskin notes how Brooks Brothers “invented apparel retailing for America’s ruling class,” and that it shouldn’t have to look beyond its sales floor to chart its direction. But the most interesting passage is this:

Brooks Brothers never sold products that were symbols of success; rather, it was where the successful shopped to eschew symbols. Sure, there were distinctive looks to the fabrics, colors and cuts, but the brand was less about selling a lifestyle as it was selling to it.

Buzzfeed, however, took a contrary view, saying the restaurant plan is actually a return to the brand’s roots — to catering to the very robber barons that Baskin says the brand built its reputation catering to:

While plans for the retailer’s new restaurant, “Makers and Merchants,” raised eyebrows when it was first reported by the New York Post earlier this week, the reality is that the Brooks Brothers aesthetic and core customer dovetail perfectly with the prototypical steakhouse diner. Think bankers, politicians, corporate executives who have no problem dropping $200 or more on a meal for two.

One more quote about well fed captains of industry. While preparing a piece on the upcoming Gilded Age exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, yesterday I came across the following passage in the accompanying book:

[Brooks Brothers’] reputation for fine quality was unparalleled, and many of the most famous men of New York society turned to Brooks Brothers for their evening ensembles…

Brooks may have spent the Gilded Age catering to New York’s fancy-dress-ball set, but in the 21st century the sun never sets on its retail doors. As the Buzzfeed story points out, nearly half its 300 stores are located overseas. — CC

18 Comments on "Critics Have Beef With Brooks Steakhouse Plan"

  1. One restaurant does not make a trend. I like the notion that like characters can hoist a few and have a decent meal.

  2. Southern Loafer | October 28, 2013 at 2:48 am |

    I will certainly eat there at least once, regardless of the critics. But, the smart money says that PJ Clarke’s on Third will be tough to top. Still, I suppose New York is big enough to support yet another excellent steakhouse. I wish the folks over at Brooks all the best.

  3. I hope the customers there know how to dress properly.

    Too many of the people I see shopping at the flagship store certainly don’t. In the good old days, one could learn now to dress simply by observing the customers there.

  4. It will be interesting to see if there’s a dress code… No jeans, jacket required, no ball caps…. etc

  5. One problem with a dress code is that Brooks sells all the items that would ordinarily be forbidden: blue jeans, baseball hats, T-shirts, shorts. My guess is that they will go with the watered-down “denim in good repair” and “neat, respectful” approach that, for example, the Yale Club has taken.

  6. Jeff Jarmuth | October 28, 2013 at 11:56 am |

    BB needs to find a great restaurant/bar management company. When Ralph Lauren opened his restaurant in Chicago over a decade ago it was at first a disaster. Poor service, spotty food, etc. Ralph decided to contract out to Gibson’s Group and the place was turned around in a few months. Now it’s one of the best places in Chicago. The space dovetails perfectly with his brand. I suspect BB will be able to match RL.

  7. There is message in Jeff’s observations. RL’s been there and done that! This, to me, is my issue (beef) with BB. They are following versus leading! Hopefully this can/will change.

  8. Carson Connor | October 28, 2013 at 5:56 pm |

    They need to be careful their clientel does not eat to much, or they will out grow the extra slim fit suits and shirts they are trying to sell them!

  9. Carson Connor | October 28, 2013 at 5:58 pm |

    …eat “too much” Sorry!

  10. Will these Italians be serving spaghetti and meatballs?

  11. @Carson Connor

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they were to sell extra-slim steaks at a higher price than regular.

  12. Mitchell S. | October 29, 2013 at 4:49 am |

    I have a beef over the proposed name: “Makers and Merchants?” Appropriate for the label on a finely made button-down dress shirt, but not for the name of a high class chop house.

  13. Franklin Alwright | October 29, 2013 at 5:56 am |

    Perhaps “Machers and Merchants” would be more appropriate.

    For the uninitiated:

  14. A.E.W. Mason | October 29, 2013 at 5:12 pm |

    “Brooks Brothers never sold products that were symbols of success; rather, it was where the successful shopped to eschew symbols.”

    I like this “point-counterpoint.” It’s packed with meaning and has the added benefit of being true. Perhaps symbols were not so much needed in the past because people were more secure and confident in the substance of their achievements.

  15. Meatballs with spaghetti???
    In Italy not exist this… thing.
    Is like eat clam chowder with roast pork inside!

  16. But that makes spaghetti and meatballs all the more appropriate for the Brooks Brothers restaurant! As an Italian-owned iconic American company, its ownership has turned it into a pastiche of elements—Thom Browne’s ludicrous designs, clothes defaced by logos, and “fashion-forward” styles, alongside the remnants of traditional American style, especially Ivy League style.

  17. “Brooks Brothers never sold products that were symbols of success; rather, it was where the successful shopped to eschew symbols.”

    Isn’t the Golden Fleece a symbol? I think Baskin got it wrong, It has to have been in use longer than the polo pony. Has anyone checked this fact out with Brooks?

    and to RJK, your attempt at an ethnic slur aside, spaghetti and meatballs is an American concoction.

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