By Julia M. Johnson
Certain restaurant names spring to mind when discriminating diners dream about steak. That list tends to include Ruth’s Chris Steak House, which offers two locations in St. Louis. It’s just as much of a household word for meeting planners, who harbor equally tender feelings for the filets and excellent service. Both restaurants – one in Clayton, and a second downtown – offer space for groups, from small, intimate gatherings to corporate parties. There are private dining rooms, semiprivate spaces, and even the flexibility to book an entire restaurant, said Nelson Constant, general manager of both properties. Located at the corner of Forsyth and Brentwood boulevards, the Clayton Ruth’s Chris opened in 2006. The downtown restaurant followed in 2009, at the newly renovated Hyatt Regency St. Louis Riverfront Hotel near the Gateway Arch. Owned by Larry Griggers and Kevin Armantrout, the St. Louis restaurants are part of an international, 130-restaurant phenomenon founded in New Orleans 45 years ago by Ruth Fertel. Locally, both Ruth’s Chris locations have become favorite meeting spots for groups ranging from sports teams to pharmaceutical companies.
Locations east and west
The downtown Ruth’s Chris restaurant offers a number of options for groups of varying sizes. Planners looking for secluded space can choose its Ruth’s Room or Napa Room, which seat about two dozen guests each and feature audiovisual hookups, flat-screen televisions or projection screens. The Sonoma Room seats up to 50 guests, and also features audio visual capabilities and a drop-down screen. An airwall between the Napa and Sonoma rooms can be opened to connect the two, accommodating up to 80 guests seated or 100 for a stand-up reception. The Board Room features a flat-screen television and audio-visual hookups, with seating arrangements for 14. And there are semi-private curtained spaces in various corners of the main restaurant. Most even feature built-in flat-screen televisions for presentations and other uses. Each private room has its own temperature, lighting and music controls, according to Constant. He noted that large groups of up to 250 have booked the entire restaurant and bar area for events. “With enough notice, we can stay open late, and we can do full-restaurant parties or reserve the bar space, even on Fridays and Saturdays,” Constant said. The Clayton property also has a number of meeting space options, according to Constant. There’s an indoor/outdoor patio, and space for parties, showers, rehearsal dinners and more. “We’ve even done full weddings at our restaurants,” he said. Ruth’s Chris charges by food and beverage minimum, not by room rental, at both properties. Steaks and seafood are signature menu specialties, and Constant said Ruth’s Chris St. Louis is known for the beverage wizardry of mixologist P.J. Doyle, who often creates special drinks for particular events. Chefs Matt Riblon and Paul Their preside over the kitchens downtown and in Clayton, respectively, making sure each plate delivers a singular dining experience. The menu doesn’t have to be just about steaks and seafood, according to Joan Berkman, a marketing representative for the restaurants. “There is also plenty of light fare, including soups, fresh fruit, and salads, which are especially appealing to young businesspeople entertaining clients,” she said. “Planners can name their game, and the staff will work to get it done.” And the food isn’t the downtown location’s only attraction, said Berkman. Conveniences such as shuttles and valet parking are available, and the staff has been known to surprise special guests with decorative touches such as rose petals and candlelight. There’s an excellent wine selection to delight patrons’ palates. And large picture windows bring diners a panoramic view of the Gateway Arch, which is spectacular when lit at night or surrounded by changing fall colors. The idea is to create a meeting and eating experience that reaches all the senses, said Constant.
The client list
Ruth’s Chris event clientele in St. Louis and Clayton have included Wells Fargo, which holds after-conference gatherings for managers and clients; Citigroup Inc., which uses the Clayton restaurant for local business meetings; and the Clayton Chamber of Commerce, which relies on the Clayton location for mixers and networking events. Other meeting clients include health plan provider Centene Corp.; Emmis Communications, a broadcast and print media firm; KMOX Radio; and nonprofits such as Better Family Life Inc., Stages St. Louis and the Press Club of Metropolitan St. Louis. Dianna Bisher plans four board meetings a year for St. Louis-based manufacturer Furniture Brands International Inc., and the Clayton Ruth’s Chris is always her company’s location of choice. “Each time, we have a dinner meeting for 15 to 25 people,” Bisher said. “The staff members are always very easy to work with. Our attendees have a busy day of meetings before the board dinner, and a full schedule the next day, so it’s important to give them a great dinner and get them back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep. The staff at Ruth’s Chris understands this, and they always keep things moving along smoothly. “If we ever send our directors to a venue where something’s not right, they definitely let me know,” Bisher said. “But we’ve never heard anything but compliments about the menu and the staff at Ruth’s Chris. We do hear comments like, ‘The steak was perfect,’ and ‘The desserts were great.’” Chad Watson, director of corporate sales and marketing for the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, said the football team has a long-standing relationship with Ruth’s Chris and holds regular events at its St. Louis restaurants. In October 2010, the team hosted parties at both restaurants to commemorate the career of former Rams wide receiver Isaac Bruce. Watson said the staff at Ruth’s Chris is especially sensitive to the needs of high-profile guests wishing to relax and enjoy a private gathering. “We had an event honoring Isaac on October 30 at the downtown location,” Watson said. “We held it in the Sonoma Room and the restaurant. It was the weekend the Rams retired his number, and the event featured many Rams executives and Isaac’s former teammates. Also that weekend, we hosted an event at the Clayton location where select sponsors and suiteholders were able to meet Isaac and discuss his career. “Nelson Constant and his staff do an extraordinary job hosting our events,” Watson said. “Ruth’s Chris always provides a secure environment for our guests, with immaculate service and exquisite cuisine.” MM&E
(Julia Johnson is the Assistant Editor from St. Louis, Mo.)
Ruth’s Chris Steak House
St. Louis Downtown
315 Chestnut Street
St. Louis MO 63102
Phone: (314) 259-3200
Ruth’s Chris Steak House Clayton
1 N. Brentwood Blvd., Suite 150
Clayton MO 63105
Phone: (314) 783-9900