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Steakhouse aims to be a fine choice

Posted: January 20, 2012 2:05 p.m.
Updated: January 20, 2012 2:05 p.m.
 

 

Larsen’s Steakhouse is preparing to move onto Town Center Drive in Valencia and the owner of the upscale boutique eatery has already gutted the interior of the former South Point Argentine Grill.

While waiting for building permits to come through, owner Fleming Larsen is in the process of having all the wood stained for the steak and seafood restaurant.

Modeling the décor after his Encino restaurant, Larsen’s interior design plans include dark woods, stacked stone walls and leather and suede booths to create an elegant, but inviting atmosphere.

When the restaurant opens, diners will be greeted by managers in tuxedos, white-tableclothed dining tables, live piano music and wine lockers at the restaurant, where all menu items are expected to be a la carte.

“We’re also moving the front doors and building private dining rooms,” Larsen said.

Within close proximity to a few other area restaurants, Larsen doesn’t expect much competition because his 175-seat steakhouse is geared toward an entirely different clientele, he said.

“We’re a special-occasion restaurant. If we can get people to come once or twice a year, that’s all we expect,” Larsen said.

 

Tradesman

A veteran in the restaurant business, Larsen, a meat-cutter by trade, opened his first restaurant in 1991. He’s also owned restaurants in the Seattle area and other cities.

Larsen’s first opened in Encino in March 2008. Larsen then went on to open Larsen’s Grill in Simi Valley. His foray into Santa Clarita is self-financed and built by himself.

“That way, I don’t accrue a lot of debt, I can be lean,” he said. “Restaurants fail because the owners spend their life savings and don’t have enough for rainy days.”

Still, asked why he’s successful opening restaurants during the economic downturn and Larsen said he “gives diners what they don’t have.”

 

Service is key

There’s a service adage, Larsen said. People will go back to a restaurant with phenomenal service and mediocre food more than they will go back to a restaurant with phenomenal food and mediocre service.

Larsen’s is in the entertainment business — high-end dining — and the restaurant caters to guest needs, he said. It also focuses heavily on training the staff.

“We give people a very good environment, our managers are fair and servers are paid well above average. Servers make $60,000 to $80,000,” Larsen said of the Encino restaurant.

The Encino restaurant has retained 90 percent of its front-house staff since day 1, Larsen said. The back-of-the-house staff turnover rate is about 80 percent.

“The restaurant trend to have 100 -percent turnover rate; we have very little turnover,” he said.

Larsen’s anticipates opening in four months after the permits are secured and the rebuilding can start. The proprietor is expecting to open sometime around the end of May or beginning of June, and the general manager of his Encino restaurant can’t wait for the restaurant to expand in Santa Clarita.

 

Prime location

Many Larsen’s employees, salespeople, wine reps and vendors live in the Santa Clarita Valley, said Nigel Davenport, general manager of the Encino restaurant. People were always saying they wished they had a Larsen’s in Valencia, he said.

“We’re really excited to go up there,” Davenport said. “It’s going to be a beautiful market.”

Both Larsen and Davenport said their interest in the market grew after talking to some vice presidents of Westfield who often dine at the Encino restaurant.

As part of its marketing outreach effort, Larsen’s has been selling gift cards at seven Costcos, after Costco approached them, Larsen said.

The Valencia location is a smaller restaurant than its Encino counterpart, Davenport said. But he has a good feeling about the place, and it has great visibility, he added.

A la carte menus and high-end dining isn’t everyday fare for many diners, though.

“We don’t need to serve 1,000 customers,” Larsen said. “We’re a quaint, handsome, sexy-looking restaurant.”

jadkins@the-signal.com

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