Thursday, February 7, 2013

Let There be Lux at Lenox

Grand Lux Cafe at SIMON's Town Center at Boca Raton
Calabasas Hills, California-based The Cheesecake Factory will likely soon add its Grand Lux Cafe restaurant concept to the metro Atlanta market.

According to an inside source, plans call for the restaurant to occupy a portion of the former Crate & Barrel space on the ground level of Lenox Square with a footprint in the 8,000 to 9,000 square foot range. The restaurant would also have a sizable number of outdoor patio seats.  The other portion of the space would be a bi-level retail space.  (Sources previously indicated that either Apple and/or Urban Outfitters might move to the front of the mall, but SIMON is happier having Apple as a magnet to the center of the mall and Urban seems content with their current location...for now.)

The Grand Lux Cafe concept was launched in Las Vegas in 1998, when the owners of The Venetian asked The Cheesecake Factory's president David Overton to create an upscale, casual restaurant for their property.  Having been to a number of the chain's locations shortly after their Florida expansion in the late 2000s, I can attest to the fact that the restaurant is more or less an upscale Cheesecake Factory with European influences.

I attended the grand opening of Grand Lux Cafe at Town Center at Boca Raton in 2006, and later visited the locations at Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, Florida and Roosevelt Field Mall on Long Island, New York.  In each case the malls are SIMON properties, and each site offers plenty of patio seating and great visibility.  The Lenox Square location seems to perfectly replicate what SIMON had been able to offer them in the aforementioned malls.  

I suggested they might be a good replacement for The Clubhouse restaurant which closed at the front of Lenox Square in late 2008.  Sources tell me that following my post, they did in fact express interest, but a deal did not come to pass.  A few years later, in 2011, Overton announced that the chain had not been seeing the repeat clients it was used to at its namesake eatery, and for that reason they were toning down the decor, making it "less formal and fancy."  The footprint of the concept was also reduced from 11,000 square feet to closer to 8,500 square feet.  Additionally, the prices of main entrees were reduced about 2 bucks across the board to be more in line with Cheesecake Factory's high teens to low twenties main entree prices.

While I've been aware of The Cheesecake Factory's plans since last fall, their intentions for the space at Lenox Square have changed repeatedly.  At one point, there was talk that The Cheesecake Factory, currently located at 3024 Peachtree Road, would relocate to Lenox Square, but apparently those plans were quashed.  I remember driving down (as a passenger in my parents minivan) in 1993 when the restaurant was being built adjacent to what later became ESPN Zone. (ESPN Zone shuttered most of their locations in 2009, including the Buckhead location which lasted ten years.  Restoration Hardware plans to open a flagship location in its place early next year.)  The Cheesecake Factory Buckhead was only the 8th location for the growing chain, and still holds a place in the hearts of many at corporate, among them, David Overton.  This sentimental attachment may have been the deciding factor in opting not to move, and to instead bring the newer concept to Atlanta. 

Today, The Cheesecake Factory boasts over a billion dollars in revenue at its 150 plus restaurant empire, which includes both The Cheesecake Factory and Grand Lux Cafe in addition to their single unit Rock Sugar Pan Asian Kitchen.

Scottsdale, Arizona-based P.F. Chang's China Bistro may be looking at the current Lenox Square Grill space, but I have been unable to verify their interest level.  Personally I'd love to see a True Food Kitchen (now majority owned by P.F. Chang's) but their entry into the Atlanta market may be a few years away according to a source at the restaurant.  True Food Kitchen's menu was created by Dr. Andrew Weil of Origins fame and offers healthy but flavorful meals in an approachable atmosphere.  Currently the chain has six locations in three states.  

If P.F Chang's did end up opening at Lenox Square, it would immediately fill the need for mid scale Asian cuisine in Buckhead, something many residents and travelers often request.

Both restaurants are elements to the larger project of redesigning the front of the posh Buckhead mall to become more pedestrian friendly, and to incorporate elements of a lifestyle center.   Beverly Hills-based Sprinkles Cupcakes plans to open a new shop near the front of the mall in the former Wolf Camera, and will also introduce their popular Cupcakes ATM here at the same time.

What are your thoughts on what should open at the front of Lenox Square?  Have you been to a Grand Lux Cafe?  What were your thoughts?  Would you like to see a P.F. Chang's in Buckhead?  Please share your thoughts below.  

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rumor is Lenox Square Grille is closing in the coming weeks. Probably a smart move with this news. Perhaps a good spot for PF

AJ said...

First, let me say I eat at both locally owned restaurants and chains - depends on what I'm in the mood for. While some will surely complain about another chain (& if PF comes to fruition, 2 chains) coming to Buckhead, I do believe that Grand Luxe & PF would be extraordinarily successful. More successful than a local restaurant, IMO. Good for Simon for bringing in what the majority wants.

Anonymous said...

That prime location needs stability and a nationally recognized brand that local businesses cannot offer. I think it will be a good addition to Lenox.

SB said...

The old Clubhouse now Lenox Grille always looked to me like it was built specifically for a Cheesecake Factory. What is the story behind that space? What was it before Clubhouse?

Atlantan99 said...

@SB,

I agree with you 100%. I'm not sure but if I recall, the space was built for Clubhouse who perhaps was hoping to emulate TCF?

Thanks for the question!

Robyn said...

What a great write up. I had no idea how TCF came up with the Grand Lux concept.

nsk said...

I'm wondering if this Grand Lux concept is just another way to sell the Cheesecake Factory menu...

If they nail the food quality, consistency, and execution of TCF while adding a measure of fanciness -we know the monied blacks and whites of Atlanta love their fanciness - Grand Lux could be a real winner. Kudos to corporate for conceiving and hopefully executing this concept.

Anonymous said...

So I guess this officially bumps the speculated Sprinkles shop from this space, no? Sad….

AJ said...

@nsk - They've successfully done it on Long Island and in South Florida. The menu has many similarities to TCF with a few unique items. If someone dumped you in a Grand Luxe blindfolded, you may think you're in TCF.

Atlantan99 said...

@nsk,

I should have been more clear in the original post. Grand Lux Cafe features the full variety of The Cheesecake Factory cheescakes within their restaurants.

Thanks for the comment and sorry for the confusion.

Atlantan99 said...

@Anon RE: Sprinkles,

Sprinkles is taking the former Wolf Camera space, at the front of the mall. While they may have at one point been interested in another spot, on the exterior, that is no longer in the plans.

Thanks for reading and sorry for the confusion.

Atlantan99 said...

Hi Robyn,

Thank you for the kind words. Pleased to be your source for industry news in Atlanta.

eh1984 said...

Also, I am not sure if you are aware but the lower level of the former Crate and Barrel is supposed to be be broken up into 3 stores. One, where the newly relocated Bebe is. Two, Lacoste is planning on moving to the space adjacent to Bebe and three, Uggs will take the remaining spot.

Amy said...

I believe this draws the wrong continued crowd to Lenox and they just drove away more of the the local shopper that is over Lenox to begin with...

AJ said...

@Amy - I'm not sure I understand your comment as it is grammatically horrific. Though what I can gather, you're basically making a racist comment?

Anonymous said...

Grand Lux has a location in Dallas at their Galleria and I might be going out on a limb here (sarcasm is heavy) but the Dallas Galleria is far nicer than Lenox mall.

Anonymous said...

Grand Lux has a good menu. eaten there several times when in LV.

Anonymous said...

F*ck PF Changs & F*ck the CF Factory! The Grand Luxe Cafe is absolutely amazing! I've been eating there, at the Palazzo, for the past 5 years. Never had a bad meal, never had to send anything back. We're talking from pancakes to sloppy joes to filets to Mahi Mahi. I might add, when it comes to food, I am a complete snob!

Please come to Atlanta!!!
ASAP
BigZ