The path to Landry's gold mine is paved in cheese
Landry's operates some legitimately great restaurants — Vic & Anthony's and Pesce among them.
But if most people lampoon them for schmaltzy, gimmick-driven restaurants, it looks like Landry's and CEO Tilman Fertitta are laughing their way to the bank, as confirmed by Friday's auction purchase of West Coast chain Claim Jumpers.
Started in California in 1977, Claim Jumpers is a gold rush-themed steakhouse, complete with faux "artifacts" from miner days. Each of the 45 restaurants contains a full "saloon" for the authentic Old West feel. No word on whether it's staffed by authentic tavern wenches, but we bet there's a drink called a sarsaparilla on the menu, and we'll double down and wager it contains some kind of flavored vodka and costs over $10.
Even for a chain restaurant, Claim Jumpers is known for its enormous portions and was singled out by Eater earlier this year as possibly the unhealthiest chain restaurant in the country, with a 1,594-calorie burger called the Widow Maker, a charbroiled citrus chicken salad clocking in at 2,520 calories and the beef back ribs packing an incredible 4,301 calories.
To review: cheesy theme + oversize portions + massively unhealthy = Landry's gold mine. (No pun intended!)
After Claim Jumpers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month Landry's placed the top bid for the company at $76.6 million, a far cry from the $200 million invested in the company in 2005 by Leonard Green & Partners for a majority stake.
Just in case Landry's is looking for some more new concepts, we've got a couple up our sleeves:
1. Jolly Roger: Pirate-themed restaurant, featuring animatronic swashbucklers stolen directly from Disneyworld's Pirates of the Caribbean. Being seated can involve "walking the plank" and a sword fight can break out every 22 minutes on the dot. Think of all fun the kids can have as the waiter explains he has a peg leg due to scurvy before recommending the chocolate orange cheesecake. The company can even recycle the parrots that hang out at Rainforest Cafe.
2. Harpoon: Nautical restaurant based around the 18th-century whaling industry in New England, with plenty of clapboard, generic pointy spears and lantern light. In addition to serving the world's largest bowl of clam chowder, Harpoon can instill the importance of hunting a species to the brink of extinction by having a mysterious Moby Dick-like creature appear through false windows every 22 minutes and shake the restaurant until someone orders a tuna steak.
3. Favela: Traditional South American steakhouse with a twist! Raise the flag to summon the vaquero, who gives diners an unlimited supply of roasted beef, pork and shrimp. But in between the tables, extras will be hired to play slum dwellers, constructing shoddy housing and begging for scraps of the plentiful meat, a fanciful reminder that for millions of people, food is a scarce resource that shouldn't be wasted on themed crap.
It will be the most meta restaurant on Earth, and also the home of a triple-tiered flan served with a sparkler.