Le Bifthèque is a restaurant and butcher shop renowned for their excellent beef and other fine meats. For nearly thirty years they have delivered quality and consistency to their customers. Some of the products they carry include well aged beef, milk fed veal and innasfail lamb, to name a few.
For the best part of the 1980s and 1990s, Le Bifthèque was like Studio 54; big, vibrant, energetic and terribly busy. “It was the place to be,” recalls Terry Christopoulos, current President of Le Bifthèque, noting that it was very customary to have to wait in line for a couple of hours to have access to a table. The restaurant and butcher shop that started the sensation was established in Montreal in 1981 by Michael Seltzer. Expansion was the natural progression of this prodigious beginning for the brand, and the chain grew slowly, with locations opening in Boucherville, Quebec City, St-Sauveur, Toronto and Ottawa.
The mid 2000s presented a difficult time for the hospitality industry in general, and Le Bifthèque was not immune to the downturn in the economy, tourism and expendable income. The industry changed with increased competition from new restaurants. The founder was devoting a lot of time and effort to developing a new steakhouse chain south of the border and consequently elected to sell. Slowly, year after year, Le Bifthèque experienced less traffic and little was done to innovate or evolve; the result was Le Bifthèque was forced into receivership in the fall of 2009.
Despite difficult times and the closing of a number of locations, Le Bifthèque is still a name that resonates in the minds of former patrons who are nostalgic for the days when they shared a meal in the dining room or frequented the butcher shop. In its prime Le Bifthèque was a huge business that had a strong name synonymous with excellent quality, good service and above all good value. “This name is what attracted us in the first place,” says Christopoulos.
This past Spring Le Bifthèque changed hands and now belongs to a new group who will look to restore the brand back to its glory. “The most important thing we acquired is the name because it is so well recognized. We know that we have a huge challenge ahead of us but this also represents an opportunity. Our intention is to spin-off into different divisions and run all departments as separate profit centres,” continues Christopoulos. These divisions include the steakhouse, butcher shop and deli, as well as our special events division. “Introducing novelty and creating excitement is important but we will stay true to the fundamentals on which the brand was built and made Le Bifthèque so successful—quality and consistency.”
Christopoulos says it’s the same principle that drives the restaurant and butcher shop and that is a never wavering adherence to maintaining the highest standard of quality. “Our view is very simple. The product that we serve has to be a quality product.”
Accordingly, there has been a new executive chef brought in, who Christopoulos says has contributed a tangible creativity and energy in the kitchen. “We have done a lot of testing and tasting and are quite pleased with the new menu we have developed. The new menu will be introduced in the next few weeks.”
The corporate store located in Montreal will be undergoing renovations over the next year to make it the flagship. The building that houses over 42,000 sq feet has three dining rooms, a bar, banquet halls and a takeout deli. Christopoulos is particularly excited about the plans of relocating the butcher shop to the front of the building.
A new day
In a market place oversaturated with copy-cat chains, it is a joy to see Le Bifthèque once again taking its staring role in the Canadian hospitality industry. A true Canadian success story of perseverance and quality, customers are going to be creating new dining memories for generations to come.