Feb 08 2009
# Employee on 07 Feb 2009 at 5:02 am
OK, so here’s the scoop from an employee. Our owner and founder, George Biel, started his concept with his first Houston’s restaurant in Tennessee over 30 years ago, and has since spread to bustling areas around the country. Houston’s is not his only restaurant. Others include Bandera Grill, Cherry Creek Grill, Rutherford Grill, Cafe R&D, and others. Please visit http://www.hillstone.com to see all our locations and menus. While our family of restaurants operate under the same code of ethics with regards to service and food preparation (utilizing local purveyors, offering great value for freshly in-house made food, choosing small-production wines for sale at far below industry standard mark-ups, etc), the reason for the different names is to reflect our collective family of restaurants. Hillstone is not something coined to mirror another company or brand. Rather, it is the name of George’s vineyard, and at the Lexington and 53rd location, we offer Hillstone wine among our by-the-bottle choices.
Changing the name on the menu and what we’re calling ourselves at our two Manhattan locations allows us to introduce some menu options that may not be traditional Houston’s fare but can include some favorites from our other locations. For example, at my location, the Sashimi Tuna Salad we prepare differs from the recipe utilized at other near-by Houston’s, but is the same as is offered on the west coast. We also have a wonderful Corned Beef sandwich, we maintain several in-season vegetables daily and list them on the menu, and we prepare some of our steaks differently from other locations (broiled as opposed to grilled). By calling ourselves Hillstone, we are able to offer great selections from beyond just the Houston’s “catalog” of recipes, and as such, label our location with the same name as that which we ascribe to our collective family of restaurants. I think it’s a great way for guests to wonder “what is Hillstone?” and possibly introduce them to the rest of our restaurant family by bringing them to our website.
Additionally, we are frequented by a number of tourists who have come to see NYC. Some don’t have a Houston’s near their home towns, but may be located near a Bandera Grill, or Cafe R&D, etc. Since Hillstone is the name of our family of restaurants, we are saying to them “come on in — you’ll get the same great service and quality of food.”
On every paycheck, I and all other employees of Houston’s, Bandera, Rutherford, etc. see Hillstone, and have for several years. And as for the regulation on calorie posting, while our menu items are prepared according to standard recipes, ultimately the final products are graded on taste, and are often modified slightly to compensate for variations in fresh ingredients (”Hey, we need to add a little more lime juice to our Honey Lime Vinaigrette” for example). There is no central Houston’s (or Hillstone) factory where our food is prepared and shipped out, unlike most fast-food chains.
We have been hearing about feedback on the web about calling our NYC stores Hillstone, and to be honest, it’s very exciting. We love to hear and know that our guests are so passionate about what we provide. Our business is hospitality, and we value everyone who chooses to dine in one of our restaurants. Ultimately, our goal is to continue providing great food at a great value with efficient service. Why would we want to upset our loyal fans? Hillstone is not a “rebranding.” We are merely highlighting the collective unity of all of George Biel’s restaurants, and continuing his dream.