The Buzz with Michael Landrum of Ray’s the Steaks
Michael Landrum is owner of the well-known Ray’s the Steaks, Ray’s Hell Burger and Ray’s the Classics. Named 2007 Restaurateur of the Year by Washingtonian Magazine, Landrum has served the DC metropolitan area for the past several years. He located in the District in 2010 with Ray’s the Steaks in Ward 7 and is currently working to improve that location to the community’s advantage as well as expand elsewhere in DC.
As a restaurant entrepreneur, you work hard to create business models that are pleasing to your customers. Where did the inspiration for Ray’s the Steaks come from?
Rays the Steaks was created from my desire to duplicate the great classic steakhouses that were developed out of central markets in cities such as New York and Paris. I took my experience and knowledge as a butcher and translated that into a high quality restaurant setting with unique cuts of meat at unheard of prices.
Why did you choose the East of the River location for your first restaurant in DC?
I chose the location because of the belief I have that a restaurant should make an impact on a community and hold a good relationship with that community. I felt that the biggest restaurant need to fill in DC was East of the River, and it looked like a place where I could have a lot of fun with the menu and put out food that I myself enjoy the most. I knew that it’d be challenging and full of potential—and that is exactly what I wanted.
Can you give us a background of the remodeling plans for the new East of the River concept?
The information that has been alluded to in the press is unfounded and greatly exaggerated. We are doing simple maintenance in the building space—carpet replacement and paint touchups—and are reformatting the menu so that we can implement ways to better serve the community. I have taken on a restaurant’s equivalent to a practicum with my staff from the Dix Street location, who are now working in Arlington and are getting to experience directly from the core what Ray’s the Steaks is all about. They’ve had the opportunity to develop new skill sets and increase their level of performance. We have already seen tremendous improvement in their level of performance and an increase in their self-confidence. Overall, it has contributed to each staff member’s personal development and has already shown tremendous returns and payback.
What advice can you offer to other restaurateurs who are either newly located or plan to locate in the District?
My advice would be to seek engagement with landlord partners and receive as much guidance and assistance from them in getting your project open as quickly and cheaply as possible. When you want an urban location, it’s important to have a good relationship with developers who can offer insight on the construction process and permits needed. Also, learn what you can with your first endeavor and save your dream business for your second project, once you’ve learned what it takes to actually make that dream happen.