The food at Ruth’s Chris Steak House restaurants is reportedly as memorable as the unique name. When it came time to renovate one of its oldest locations in Metairie, Louisiana, the international restaurant franchise sought out the design skills of Broadmoor Design Group and Bloom Lighting Group to make noticeable changes while staying true to its roots.
From humble beginnings as a local 60-seat New Orleans eatery with an odd name, Ruth’s Chris Steak House has grown into a 120-location, upscale restaurant chain renowned for serving quality food in a cozy atmosphere all over the world.
When the time came to renovate its Metairie, La.-based franchise recently, the company called upon the expertise of renowned New Orleans-area architectural firm Broadmoor Design Group, which has successfully updated many of the Ruth’s Chris restaurants nationwide.
“We wanted to achieve a noticeable contrast between before and after the renovation while maintaining the recognizable Ruth’s Chris feel,” explains Donna Trotter, Project Director at Broadmoor Design Group. “The existing design had little decorative lighting, so we felt this was an area we could make a noticeable impact,” she remarks.
Since colors are important for any restaurant, the design team took the reds and blacks of the Ruth’s Chris logo and featured them prominently in the furniture and lighting throughout the space. Touches of antique silver and dark bronze accents further complement the rich wood detailing that permeates the décor.
“As with all of the Ruth’s Chris locations we work on, we wanted to bring local and regional influences into the restaurant,” Trotter recounts. “This is reflected in the materials we chose and the lighting elements we included.”
Big Easy Style
Drawing on local culture for inspiration, the architectural design firm turned to custom lighting manufacturer Bloom Lighting Group – which has offices throughout the U.S. and Canada – to create lighting fixtures that would convey the restaurant’s special blend of elegance, playfulness, and whimsy.
For the main dining area, the design team requested lighting that would embody the local French influence. The pendants feature a concave brass body in a dark bronze finish with a stylized fleur-de-lis sitting below an intersection of antique silver leaf center lines. The fleur-de-lis is finished with a red glass decorative ball, a nod to the infamous Mardi Gras beads that are a recurring design element on the lighting fixtures throughout the restaurant. Each fixture spans 36 inches and is fitted with four E12 sockets.
The seating area around the bar is illuminated by complementary suspended lantern fixtures with faux silk pleated shades. Decorative red glass balls sit above and below the shade, and a dark bronze finial serves as an accent on the bottom.
That same fixture design is echoed on the back wall of the bar, where the faux silk pleated shades top a series of tall wall sconces with a sculptural lamp stem below a red glass decorative ball and a backplate with 10 antique silver leaf half balls on the perimeter.
To bring a more luxurious ambiance to the private dining areas adjacent to the bar, two different types of lighting fixtures are employed. A circular pendant hangs 38 inches from the ceiling and is reflected in the two decorative mirrors to form a functional centerpiece. The pendant is comprised of the familiar dark bronze chain, antique silver leaf, faux silk fabric shade, red glass balls, and dark bronze finial from the bar area. It measures 16¼ inches in diameter, has two E12 sockets, and is equipped with a frosted acrylic diffuser to eliminate glare.
Along with the central pendant, wall-mounted fixtures provide additional personality. A tapered stem design alternates between bands of dark bronze and antique silver leaf. A small red glass ball finishes off its narrowest end while a larger ball provides the transition to the faux silk pleated shade.
Whether coming or going, patrons of Ruth’s Chris Steak House are reminded of the restaurant chain’s heritage by the vintage-style New Orleans lanterns in the entrance and stairwells. Reminiscent of lighting fixtures in the French Quarter, these lanterns also contain design elements that are pervasive throughout the eatery. In the stairwell and points of egress, a custom rectangular chain in a dark bronze finish supports a six-light, candelabra-based lantern with four clear glass panels. These fixtures also incorporated antique silver leaf half balls like those on the backplate of the bar’s wall sconces plus the fleur-de-lis accents and red glass balls from the main dining area. The same lantern style illuminates the foot of the stairs with a four-light, wall-mounted version. A circular pendant that complements the lighting in the main dining area is installed at the top of the staircase.
Although there is not a uniform interior design formula for each franchisee, regardless of whether patrons are dining in California, Idaho, Michigan, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Texas, Florida, and New Jersey (plus even more states), their experience of Ruth’s Chris Steak House will be of enjoying great food in an atmosphere of relaxed elegance and New Orleans-infused charm.
Project: Ruth’s Chris Steak House, New Orleans
Designer: Broadmoor Design Group, Mandeville, La.
Lighting: Bloom Lighting Group
Photography: Christie Froom Photography
About Founder Ruth Fertel
Born and raised in New Orleans, Ruth Udstad accomplished a lot at a young age. She skipped several grades in school and graduated from Louisiana State University at age 19. She taught at McNeese State University for a short time and married fellow horse lover Robert Fertel from Baton Rouge. Together they opened a racing stable and she subsequently earned a thoroughbred trainer’s license, becoming the first female horse trainer in Louisiana.
Years later, they divorced and she raised her two teenage sons, supporting them with her job as a lab technician for a research scientist at the Tulane University School of Medicine. In 1965 she learned a local restaurant she had enjoyed dining at – Chris Steak House – was for sale. She mortgaged her home ($22,000) to buy it in the hopes of growing the business so she could send her boys to college. Within six months, she reportedly was earning double her previous salary — despite not having prior restaurant experience and the fact that the restaurant had almost closed six times under its previous ownership. She became involved in every aspect of running the restaurant, including teaching herself how to butcher steaks. Another distinguishing characteristic was Fertel’s decision to staff her restaurant with single mothers and was reportedly the only upscale restaurant in New Orleans with an all-female wait staff.
When that original 60-seat restaurant burned down, Fertel moved the business a short distance away. Since terms of the sale required her to keep the “Chris Steak House” name, she added her own name in front to offer continuity when the business relocated to a space that could accommodate more than double the amount of patrons.
In 1977, the idea of expansion was broached by a faithful customer who had moved to Baton Rouge and sorely missed the food at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. He persuaded Fertel to open a second location in the state’s capitol. From then on, more franchising opportunities presented themselves. Fertel continued to run the business until she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1999. She sold the chain to Madison Dearborn Partners of Chicago and died at age 75 in 2002.
There are more than 120 Ruth’s Chris Steak House restaurants, including 12 international locations in Mexico, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tokyo, Aruba, and Canada. The corporate entity is now known as Ruth’s Hospitality Group, which owns and operates the Ruth’s Chris Steak House brand as well as the Mitchell’s Fish Market, Mitchell’s Steakhouse, and Cameron’s Steakhouse brands acquired in 2008.
An early sign for Ruth’s Chris Steak House circa the 1960s.
Just off of the bar, this private dining area has an inviting, cozy vibe.
CP_RuthChris_BarArea or BarArea_02 (same caption works for either)
The bar area has a mix of recessed, color accent lighting at floor level, plus decorative fixtures for ambiance.
A close up of the wall sconces in the private dining nooks off of the bar.
Pendants that complement those in the main dining area hang above each bar table.
Each pendant features decorative elements that are included all over the restaurant — clear red glass balls, pleated fabric, bronze finishes, and the classic lantern shape.