Fleming's: 13 Facts About The Steakhouse Chain

Steakhouses are a dime a dozen these days. According to Statista, the largest steakhouse chains in America accounted for more than 1,500 locations in 2021. That number only increases when you include standalone operations. This vast pool of competitors makes it difficult for any brand to stand apart. And yet, despite the odds, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar has done just that.

Since opening the first restaurant in the Southern California town of Newport Beach in 1998, Fleming's has expanded to more than 60 locations across the country. Soon into its nearly 25-year run, it was absorbed into one of the largest restaurant holding companies in the world, under which it remains today (via Bloomin' Brands). All the while, the chain has continued to serve up some impressively good steaks.

Now that you know the name, you should know the story. From its connections to other noteworthy chains like P.F. Chang's and Outback Steakhouse, to its recent legal troubles and prescient navigation through the COVID-19 pandemic, these are the facts about Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar you need to know.

1. Fleming's and P.F. Chang's have a shared history

Aside from their upscale, yet affordable business model, Fleming's and P.F. Chang's don't seem to have too much in common. After all, they specialize in vastly different cuisines. And yet, these two successful chains share a similar origin story. In fact, they are both the brainchild of the same man.

In the early 1990s, restauranteur Paul Fleming was running the Ruth's Chris Steakhouse franchise in California (via Honolulu Magazine). While living on the West Coast, he would frequent a local Chinese restaurant called Mandarette, known for its minimalist take on the cuisine. "We simplified Chinese food, took out the filler, made it cleaner and fresher, lots of small plates," chef Philip Chiang said. Over time, Fleming and Chiang became friends.

When Fleming moved to Arizona to expand Ruth's Chris, he couldn't find a decent Chinese restaurant anywhere. This led him to the idea of starting his own. The only problem was that he knew nothing about Chinese cuisine. To solve this, he recruited his friend Chiang. The two partners opened their first restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1993. The name incorporated both founders. "P.F." for Paul Fleming and "Chang" for Philip Chiang.

The pair eventually sold the chain to a corporation, freeing them up to take on new endeavors. For Fleming, this meant getting right back into the restaurant business with a new concept. In 1998, he did just that by co-founding Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar.

2. Fleming's experienced immediate success by targeting a new demographic

When Fleming's opened in the late 1990s, the restaurant landscape was saturated with steakhouse competitors. Founders Paul Fleming and Bill Allen, however, were undeterred, as they believed their new eatery could fill a gap between casual and fine-dining steakhouses (via Restaurant Hospitality). The average check would be roughly $50 per person, right in between less expensive restaurants like Outback and traditional steakhouses such as Ruth's Chris and Morton's.

One way of lowering customer costs was offering wine by the glass, an uncommon practice in many high-end steakhouses. "Traditional steakhouses focus on wines by the bottle," Allen said. "We wanted a steakhouse that was more affordable and had great variety in wines by the glass — which contribute to a lower check and greater guest frequency — and design it so women would find it appealing."

At the time, steakhouses' main clientele were men. Fleming and Allen felt that their restaurant could be successful if they could get more women through the door. "Paul asked me how we'd know if our concept worked, and I told him that if we could walk into a Fleming's dining room on a Wednesday night and find 40% of the tables occupied by women, we could claim victory," Allen recalled. The concept worked brilliantly. Just four months after opening their first location in Newport Beach, California, the founders set up a second restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona. Many more would soon be on their way.

3. Fleming's has several well-known sister restaurants

Before Paul Fleming and Bill Allen founded Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, the pair met with Outback Steakhouse CEO Chris Sullivan to pick his brain about their new concept (via Restaurant Hospitality). It would prove to be the start of a fruitful relationship for both sides.

In September of 1999, less than a year after Fleming's officially opened the doors of its first location, the two steakhouses formed a joint venture that saw Outback take a 50% ownership stake in the upstart chain. In return, Fleming's gained access to Outback's significant marketing, advertising, and real estate resources, not to mention a substantial cash infusion. "It's a great partner," Allen told Restaurant Hospitality back in 2004. "Without the additional expense, disruption and pressure of delivering for the public market, we're actually freer to grow our business and stay focused on it."

And just like that, Fleming's was now part of the Outback family, one that already included Carrabba's Italian Grill, as well (via Bloomin' Brands). Outback's parent company, now known as Bloomin' Brands, has since expanded its portfolio to include Bonefish Grill and Aussie Grill. In total, it operates more than 1,450 eateries around the globe, making it one of the largest restaurant companies in the world.

4. It's one of the largest steakhouse chains in the country

By both size and revenue, Fleming's is one of the largest steakhouse chains in the United States. According to Statista, the restaurant had 64 locations across the country as of 2021, the seventh-highest total of any American steakhouse chain. (Sister restaurant Outback Steakhouse leads the way with roughly 700 outposts.)

A large footprint is impressive, but everything always comes down to the almighty dollar. Fortunately for Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, it's doing pretty well in that category too. In 2020, FSR Magazine reported that the chain's annual sales reached $302 million. Not only was this good for ninth place among steakhouses, but it pushed Fleming's into the top 50 highest-grossing full-service restaurants in the country, across all cuisines.

We all know that 2020 was, to put it mildly, a weird time for restaurants, which almost universally suffered significant drops in business. Fleming's proved that by upping its revenue the very next year. According to Restaurant Business Online, the chain brought in $333 million in sales in 2021. This was again the ninth-highest sum among the country's steakhouse chains. Only two restaurants ahead of Fleming's, The Capital Grille and Fogo de Chao, had fewer locations. Most of the chains had at least double the number of stores from which to draw revenue.

5. It's one of America's favorite steakhouse chains

Bigger isn't always better, but Fleming's has managed to check off both of those important boxes. As previously mentioned, the chain's 60-plus locations make it one of the largest steakhouse chains in the country, according to Statista. So we know that Fleming's is bigger, but is it any better than other steakhouse chains? According to consumers, the answer is a resounding yes. In 2018, Restaurant Business Online polled diners on their favorite restaurant chains by menu segment. Fleming's came out on top amongst all steakhouses, with a particularly high score in the service/hospitality section. The following year, Fleming's didn't just top all other steakhouses again, it was named America's second favorite restaurant chain across the board. It finished less than two percentage points behind first-place Chick-fil-A.

Maybe, you're thinking, Restaurant Business readers are impartial to Fleming's. If so, they're not the only ones. In 2022, Newsweek polled more than 4,000 customers and employees of restaurant chains to discover the one Americans loved the most. In total, 220 restaurants were chosen across 16 cuisine types. Fleming's was one of 15 steakhouses to make the cut, and one of only seven in its category to get a full five-star rating.

And for what it's worth, Mashed readers are quite fond of the restaurant as well. In a poll determining which steakhouse chain had the worst steak, Fleming's tied for the second-fewest votes out of seven national chains.

6. Every steak at Fleming's is prepared the same way

Fleming's has seven steak cuts on its menu, from classics like filet mignon and New York strip to the specialty bone-in ribeye and tomahawk. But no matter the piece of meat, every Fleming's steak is prepared the same way.

According to the company, all of the steaks served at its restaurants have been dry-aged for 21 days. This crucial step ensures the steak will have the ideal texture. By exposing the meat to air, moisture gets pulled out and the beef's natural enzymes break the muscles down to make for a perfectly tender steak (via Steak School). The process also gives the meat a stronger flavor profile.

Once the steak has spent the requisite three weeks dry-aging, it's ready to be cooked. For this process, Fleming's employs a simple, yet classic technique. Every cut is treated with nothing more than kosher salt and pepper, and then broiled at 1,600 degrees. When it's ready to be served, guests can then customize their steak with one of Fleming's three signature butters: béarnaise, smoked chili, or herbed horseradish.

7. Fleming's is now available on GrubHub

When you think of the steakhouse experience, you conjure up images of sitting down for an elegant dinner, not getting a piece of meat delivered to your doorstep. But today's dining experience is more about convenience and flexibility. So, if you're suddenly hit with the urge to dig into a tomahawk steak in front of your television, you'd like to have that option. And Fleming's is there for you when that happens.

In September 2022, Fleming's parent company Bloomin' Brands announced that the steakhouse chain, along Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, and Aussie Grill, would be offering pickup and delivery service via GrubHub. "We want diners to come to Grubhub and be blown away by the number of choices to order from," Liz Bosone, vice president of restaurant success at Grubhub, said in a statement. "We're excited to build on our relationship with Bloomin' Brands and expand our restaurant supply. Our 32 million diners across the country now get access to all of Bloomin's well-known and delicious portfolio of brands, driving even more orders and providing more earning opportunities for our delivery partners."

Fleming's was already available through other popular delivery services, such as DoorDash, Postmates, and Uber Eats. But having more options never hurts. "This amplified partnership allows us to continue to expand our omni-channel off-premises approach and bring our well-known, favorite brands to even more guests," said Sheilina Henry, Bloomin Brands' senior vice president of off-premises dining.

8. NBA star Charles Barkley is a fan

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse's popularity has given rise to a growing number of fans, but one of those fans is more famous than the others. It turns out, former basketball star Charles Barkley is an admirer and frequent visitor of Fleming's. The NBA Hall of Famer and current host of "Inside the NBA" told Thrillist about his favorite spots to eat and drink in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. Included among the list was the local Fleming's outpost. For Barkley, dining there is an opportunity to, as he puts it, visit his "friends ... I know every bartender and waiter here," he said.

While we wholeheartedly agree with supporting a local establishment, we cannot advocate for Barkley's actions inside the restaurant. "When I go to Fleming's—and this drives [my television colleague] Ernie Johnson crazy — I order a steak well done," Barkley admitted. "If I see too much red, I just can't eat it. I've tried medium well a few times recently, and it was actually good, but well done is where it's at. I also always cut up my entire steak before eating it."

While you might not (read: should not) follow Barkley's well-done steak order, feel free to take his other menu advice. "With my steak, I love to get the Fleming's potatoes. They're really just potatoes au gratin, but here they're special."

9. Fleming's employees sued the chain for federal labor violations

So far, 2022 has not been a banner year for Fleming's when it comes to lawsuits. In May 2022, a server working at a Massachusetts Fleming's sued his employer, alleging the restaurant illegally paid servers below minimum wage and used tip credits to make up the difference in pay (via ClassAction.org). Furthermore, the restaurant required tipped workers to perform a substantial amount of untipped work, thus limiting the tips they could make. According to Reuters, servers were paid as little as $2.13 per hour. The Department of Labor, however, requires employees to receive at least $7.25 per hour if they spend more than 20% of their time completing non-tipped work. "As a result of these violations, Defendants have lost the ability to use the tip credit and therefore must compensate Plaintiff and all similarly situated worker at the full minimum wage rate, unencumbered by the tip credit, and for all hours worked," the lawsuit read. "Defendants must account for the differences between the wages paid to Plaintiff and all similarly situated workers and the minimum wage rate."

If that wasn't enough, Fleming's also violated Massachusetts state law by deducting uniform costs from employees' paychecks. All this is covered in what the Massachusetts server hopes will become a class-action lawsuit representing Fleming's employees across the country.

10. A lawsuit accused a Fleming's employee of racial discrimination

Just months after being sued by some of its employees, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse was hit with another legal action, this one coming from a customer. According to the La Jolla Light, a diner filed a lawsuit in July against the chain and one of its servers, accusing said employee of racial discrimination.

The lawsuit alleges that plaintiff Mychel McKillian, who was the only African American dining with a group at a California Fleming's, did not receive his food along with the other members of his party. "Instead of steak, McKillian was served an empty hot plate sprinkled with parsley," the suit read. "McKillian's plate was delivered by a male server. While delivering the empty plate, [the server] looked at McKillian and said: 'You're probably used to a loud sizzle with your hot plate, but ours is silent. Enjoy.'"

The waiter allegedly referenced the plaintiff's race later on, and never provided an explanation for not serving the plaintiff his meal. "McKillian felt belittled, humiliated and racially profiled," according to the suit. "[McKillian's wife] felt her husband was being stereotyped, humiliated and discriminated against."

McKillian was seeking at least $8,000 from the server and steakhouse chain for punitive damages to, "punish, penalize and/or deter [the] defendants from further engaging in the conduct." For its part, Fleming's did not respond to La Jolla Light's request for comment.

11. The chain largely avoided laying off employees during COVID-19 shutdowns

Few industries were ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic like the restaurant business. The forced closures caused eateries to hemorrhage money and lay off employees. Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and its staff, however, made it through the rough times relatively unscathed. In April 2020, just as COVID-19 was taking hold across the country, Restaurant Business Online reported that Fleming's parent company Bloomin' Brands, which also owns Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, and Carrabba's Grill, had not furloughed any of the company's 90,000 employees.

The restaurant chains did take a hit during these early lockdown months in the form of a 31% decrease in same-store sales. But the company was able to keep nearly every restaurant in its portfolio open, and in turn keep its workers employed, thanks to increased takeout and delivery revenue. "This is a testament to the strong affinity for our brands, and our decision to invest significantly into building a robust delivery network to complement our takeout business," Bloomin' Brands CEO Dave Deno said at the time.

The decision to keep employees on the payroll proved even more beneficial in the following months. While not all Fleming's locations survived in the long run, Restaurant Business Online reported that by May 2020, 355 Bloomin' restaurants, including some Fleming's stores, had reopened. Because its employees were already in place, Fleming's was able to seamlessly reopen its restaurants. This also resulted in restaurant sales outpacing pre-pandemic numbers (via FSR). 

12. The Two for Twosday promotion is a menu highlight

Everybody loves a good deal, and if you think one cannot be had at an upscale steakhouse, just try booking a reservation for two on a Tuesday night at Fleming's. The Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar's "A Taste for Twosday" special runs every week at every Fleming's location. So what does this promotion include, you ask? Diners can choose two salads, two sides, and two desserts. For an entrée, the pair must decide to share either the 35-ounce prime tomahawk steak or the Chef's Reserve. This latter option includes two pieces of meat: a 28-ounce prime bone-in New York strip served with a choice of béarnaise, smoked chili, or herbed horseradish butters; and a 6-ounce filet mignon served with trio of salts. (While the filet mignon and New York strip are offered separately on Fleming's main menu, the Chef's Reserve combo is only available as part of "Taste for Twosday.")

Now that we've got the food covered, let's talk about the deal. The Taste for Twosday meal — two salads, two sides, two desserts, and a giant shared steak —costs just $145. A quick look at the Fleming's menu shows that, if ordered on any other day of the week, this meal could easily cost $200 or more. That comes out to a pretty hefty 30% discount. So, if you want to impress your fiscally sound significant other, try turning Tuesday night into date night.

13. Fleming's has been known to offer $100 drinks

To celebrate Cinco de Mayo in 2017, Fleming's offered diners the chance to sip on a $100 margarita. The cocktail was made with two premium liquors, Tequila Herradura Selección Suprema and Grand Marnier Centenaire. It was served in a specially designed glass made by world-renowned crystal manufacturer Baccarat. Guests were allowed to keep the glass for their own personal use. "By partnering with a premium tequila company and the world's most distinguished crystal manufacturers, we've created an elevated Cinco de Mayo experience," Patty Trevino, Fleming's chief marketing officer, said in a statement. "Together with Tequila Herradura and Baccarat, we've added Fleming's signature elegance to create our $100 Margarita – a traditional, yet memorable addition to any Cinco de Mayo celebration."

Two years later Fleming's was again offering a $100 drink. The beverage of choice this time around was a glass of Vérité La Joie, a Bordeaux-style red blend wine. It was served in Riedel Performance Cabernet Sauvignon Glass, which too could be taken home. "Bringing our guests distinguished wines, such as the 100-point pour, is a passion for us, and reflects our commitment to providing memorable dining–and wining–experiences," said Stephen Blevins, director of wine at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. "Vérité La Joie 2012 is an incredible glass of wine featuring exuberant notes of red currant, black plum and cherry framed by subtle French oak nuances like powdered cocoa and cedar with a balanced finish."