The parent to the Daily Grill chain has debuted a new casual-dining seafood concept positioned as a potential growth vehicle.
The new Laurel Point restaurant replaces a 23-year-old Daily Grill location operated by Grill Concepts Inc. in the Studio City neighborhood of Los Angeles.
The goal is to meet what executives see as a need for a seasonal neighborhood seafood joint with accessible pricing and customizable dishes, said John Sola, Grill Concepts president and CEO.
Laurel Point customers can choose from fresh red trout, Alaskan halibut or Pacific swordfish served blackened with remoulade sauce; grilled with Tabasco compound butter; or Cantonese style with a soy ginger cilantro sauce.
The menu includes a daily selection of oysters, as well as sushi, seafood salads and dishes like cioppino or a lobster roll sandwich. A signature dish is a whole fried snapper, Thai style, for two.
There’s a full bar with handcrafted cocktails made with fresh juices, house-made syrups and mixers. The average check is roughly $14 at lunch and in the mid- to upper-$20 range at dinner.
“We saw a void in the marketplace,” Sola said. “Few restaurants are going in this direction and doing it well, though people are eating less meat.”
Laurel Point is the first of what Woodland Hills, Calif.-based Grill Concepts is calling its Point Restaurants division. A second location is scheduled to open in downtown Denver at the beginning of 2017, but it will be named Wewatta Point. Each location name will make reference to the street where it is located.
The unchained-chain positioning borrows from the group’s sister concept Public School, which debuted four years ago in Los Angeles and now has six locations, with another three units scheduled to open this year in Denver; Addison, Texas; and Atlanta.
A craft-beer-focused gastropub, Public School locations include the local telephone area code in the name of each restaurant. The unit in Culver City, Calif., is Public School 310, for example, and Atlanta will be Public School 404.
The Public School concept appears to be a hit. Sola said restaurants are showing average unit volumes between $4 million and $5 million, in a smaller footprint than the typical Daily Grill location. Sola said he expects Point Restaurants to see similar numbers, or between $700 to $800 per square foot.
Both the Point and Public School concepts are attempts to evolve with the changing tastes of consumers, Sola said.
Grill Concepts was born in 1988 after the opening in 1984 of the upscale Grill in the Alley in Beverly Hills, Calif., a restaurant that quickly became known as a power lunch spot for the Hollywood elite.
The company now operates seven Grill on the Alley locations, and that concept is also being tweaked. A Grill on the Alley in Westlake Village, near Los Angeles, for example, is scheduled for a refresh in September that Sola said would make the concept a bit more gender neutral.
“The Grill has always been known as sort of a men’s club,” Sola said. “One of the things we made a point to do with Public School, and we feel we succeeded, is make it more woman-friendly, not so masculine. We’re doing the same with Laurel Point.”
The company’s core 16-unit Daily Grill chain, meanwhile, which debuted 27 years ago, is also being updated, although some units are also being converted to the company’s newer concepts where it makes sense.
For Sola, who was named president and CEO in February when founder Bob Spivak retired, Laurel Point is a return home. Sola was the first executive chef of the Daily Grill restaurant it replaced when it first opened in the early 1990s.
Much has changed in the industry since then, he said, from the Food-Network-educated millennial customers, who dine out in groups and eat less but drink more; to operational details, like the shift to iPad-based point-of-sale systems, housemade beverage syrups that eliminate the need for soda fountains, and music playlists from Pandora rather than DMX.
“Things change, so you’ve got to change also,” he said. “It seems these days you’ve got to reinvent yourself about every seven or eight years.”