A Peek Into The World Of Ruth’s Chris Steak House In St. Louis

It’s fair to say that Stephanie DiDonato, private dining sales manager at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in St. Louis’ Clayton neighborhood, is one of the most experienced party planners you will ever meet—but you are more likely to meet her at your party than hers. DiDonato laughs when she admits, “Personally, I never throw parties. But I love doing it for friends and family.”

She also loves doing it for customers. “It really is something I have a passion for,” she says. “It combines my love of being in a restaurant—and the crazy, hectic things that go with that—with my passion for working with people. And then I also get to do a little bit of sales and marketing. It rolls everything into one for me. I love it. It’s a perfect fit.”

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Ruth’s Chris is synonymous with steak, of course. The dishes can even be downright theatrical, like the Tomahawk ribeye: 40 ounces of broiled USDA Prime bone-in ribeye that’s hand-cut tableside. But private-dining customers aren’t constrained to the menu, which could also yield a vegetarian-friendly entrée like eggplant Parmesan, or a vegan-friendly dish like broiled portobello-and-veggie skewers. One might think vegans and vegetarians would struggle at a classic steak house, but not so here. The consummate planner, DiDonato goes out of her way to accommodate everyone—something that doesn’t end at dietary restrictions.

DiDonato has been in the restaurant industry since the age of 15, working her way up from McDonald’s to country clubs and fine dining. Over the years, she has seen just about every aspect of working the front and back of the house. She notices details—and customers do, too. “Those little touches that go above and beyond really mean something special to the guests,” she says. “Our level of service is held to such a standard that we try to make sure no one needs anything.” And while dining trends come and go, exemplary service always stays in style.

There are also trends towards culinary experimentation, especially on the social side of private dining, where couples come for date nights or families gather for informal events. “People want to try different and new things,” she says. “If they have an idea, we’ll take it and run with it. It’s something fun for our chefs, and our guests love it.” Her personal favorite experiment? “I had a bar mitzvah last December, and the young man wanted a donut-hole decorating station and a macaroni-and-cheese bar.”

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On the business side, DiDonato has also noticed a strong trend towards lunch meetings instead of dinners. “Our lunch items are reasonably priced, and we can get guests in and out within an hour,” she says. “Lunch is a bit more casual, but with the same level of service you’d expect at dinner.” Even if the guests choose to be in the wine room (which seats up to 14), DiDonato says they’re less worried about the pressure to imbibe at lunch, which makes it easier for those whose companies don’t foot the bill for alcohol.

With businesses more conscious of employees’ time, DiDonato says Ruth’s Chris has also been catering on-site more often recently. “I feel like it’s becoming a trend because they don’t have to leave what they’re doing,” she explains. “The food shows up, and you don’t have to worry about anything else. It’s on your own timeline.”

Where to go

Clayton
1 N. Brentwood Blvd.
314.783.9900

Downtown
315 Chestnut St.
314.259.3200

This post has been brought to you in part by the mentioned business. Photography is courtesy of Ruth’s Chris. Thank you for supporting the companies that keep ALIVE growing. 

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