Haley Wagner with Ruth's Chris Steak House says upcoming renovations will boost seating for happy hour and dinner service. Photos by Edward Smith
Written by Edward Smith
After 10 years in Fresno, changes are coming to one of the area’s high-end chophouses.
Patrons at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in River Park may have not yet noticed the work going on in the mornings leading up to dinner service. But soon, changes will become apparent as Ruth’s Chris undergoes an approximately 10-week update to its decor with a more public patio area, new paint, new art package and updated banquet rooms, said Haley Wagner, regional sales and catering manager with the restaurant.
If all goes according to plan, upgrades should be finished by September, well in time for the holiday season.
With more than 100 locations around the world, Ruth’s Chris just recently renewed its lease with River Park landlord Lance Kashian & Co.
“It seemed a really good time to do a refresh,” Wagner said. “We want to be on the forefront of giving our guests that elevated experience and making sure we continue to provide them the ambience, dining experience and service that separates us from everyone else.”
The biggest change, Wagner said, will come to the patio area, which will be expanded.
“There are days when we have people waiting in the lobby and outside the doors before we even open to make sure they get their seats for happy hour,” Wagner said.
Before, the 24-person-maximum patio area was mostly reserved for private events. It lacked shade as well as temperature control.
But now, construction teams have dug out portions of the stone walkways to install the foundation and shading to create a more comfortable outdoor experience, Wagner said.
“We’re able to extend the size of the patio. We’re able to do some temperature control components. And we’ll be creating an access point off of our lounge which will allow us to utilize the space for happy hour.”
After construction wraps up, the patio will be able to seat 40 people, Wagner estimates.
Wall booths will be taken out to allow access to the back, so they will have to be rearranged in order not to sacrifice seating. In fact, the 50-person dining room may even see a slight increase in capacity.
Overall, they’re bringing in 16 new wallpapers, 140 new light fixtures, including chandeliers and wall sconces, as well as paint. The carpet and chairs were also recently upgraded.
The challenge for construction teams is preparing the restaurant for operation each day before doors open at 4:30 p.m. for happy hour and 5 p.m. for dinner. The trouble will be when the bathrooms are redone. For two days in the near future, one bathroom will have to be gender-neutral while the other is updated and brought to code.
The banquet rooms will also get upgrades, including updated partitions and audio/visual equipment.
Part of what drove the decision to embark on what the city-issued construction permit values at $250,000 worth of renovation costs was staying current in decor, which Wagner said is a big part of the restaurant experience.
“There’s a lot of competition here,” Wagner said, adding that Fresno has more restaurants per capita than any other area in California, beside the Bay Area. She credits a lot of those restaurants for their high quality.
“We want to make sure the reason why people come to us is backed up by the experience they have when they join us,” Wagner said.
Ruth’s Chris Steak House is at 7844 N Blackstone Ave. in River Park. It’s open 365 days a year, starting at 4:30 p.m. for “Ruth’s Hour” and 5 p.m. for dinner, with hours outside normal business hours for private events.