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No-Iron Steaks?

Brooks Brothers is making a totally logical expansion into steakhouses

Brooks Brothers, which introduced Americans to off-the-rack suits, pink dress shirts, Argyle socks, and other sartorial innovations, is branching out into steaks. The oldest menswear retailer in the United States said it plans to open a large steakhouse  in New York City by next summer.

It might seem like Brooks Brothers is stretching horizontal expansion to new extremes with a foray into the restaurant business. But it’s actually not difficult to see the logic here: Brooks Brothers sells high-end, traditional clothing, mainly suits, largely to men. And meals don’t come more traditional or male than a steak dinner.

The 195-year-old company is converting a 15,000-square foot, three-level space in midtown Manhattan, around the corner from its flagship store, to create the massive steakhouse, the New York Post reports. It will be called Makers and Merchants.  If successful, the retailer could open more steakhouses around the US, according to the Post.

Arthur Wayne, a spokesman for Brooks Brothers, declined to elaborate on the company’s plans, saying the restaurant is still in the development stage. “It’s a work in progress,” he said.

It’s an ambitious and risky move for Brooks Brothers, which was bought by the Italian entrepreneur Claudio Del Vecchio’s Retail Brand Alliance in 2001 for $225 million from UK retailer Marks & Spencer. Under Del Vecchio’s stewardship, Brooks Brothers, which was founded in 1818, has undergone something of a renaissance and would appear to be making the move from a position of strength.

But New York is already blessed with a number of high-end steakhouses.  And the restaurant business is notoriously unforgiving. Many celebrity chefs, not to mention Hollywood superstars, or even the wrestling company WWE, have tried it before and failed. To be fair others, like Michael Jordan, have been more successful.

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