When Sean St. Clair recently stumbled upon the area's newest Beef 'O' Brady's, things looked much different from his days frequenting the chain with his college friends.
He noticed that sections of the restaurant were designed for families, with 19-inch TVs on the tables allowing kids to watch programs they like while their parents viewed sports on big flat-screen TVs on the walls. There was a game room, and the walls were painted bright hues.
It was just right for St. Clair, who is now married to Jennifer, and the father of 4-year-old son, Van. During his days at the University of South Florida, St. Clair went to a Beef 'O' Brady's near campus to hang out with friends. But these days, he's a family man.
"The layout looks really neat," he said after stepping into the restaurant at 9322 N 56th St. for the first time.
The restaurant, which opened Feb. 27 in the site of a former Blockbuster store, is the first company-owned Beef 'O' Brady's to incorporate all aspects of what is being called "Beef's 2.0." A similarly restyled Beef's opened in Hudson last fall but, at 2,800 square feet, it's smaller than the 4,000-square-foot Temple Terrace prototype.
The new Beef's has a kid-friendly layout that's billed as more conducive to parents with children. Chris Elliott, the restaurant's chief executive officer, came on board in March 2010 and said he concluded that the term "family sports bar" was a "little oxymoronic."
Perhaps some adjustments were in order.
Aside from the game room and the tables with TVs for families, the restaurant's overall look has changed. Instead of the typical green furnishings and paneled walls with Tiffany-style light fixtures, the new decor consists of burnt orange and gold walls, light hardwood flooring, and booths with black leather cushions to match the black granite bar top. The chain's typical dark wooden base for its bar has been replaced with corrugated metal.
"This is great," said Temple Terrace resident Atif Siddiqi, who also visited the restaurant last week with his wife, Yung, and their daughter Sofia, 2. Their two older sons were not in their company.
"We like what we've seen, especially the TVs at the tables, and if the boys were here they'd be watching Nickelodeon or something on them," he said.
Pizza, a new menu item, and a Coke fountain that dispenses 120 varieties of soda also are available. Inside the game room, the younger set is invited to play Xbox games. A restroom is nearby.
St. Clair promised his son he could play in the game room when he finished his pepperoni pizza.
Jeff Lupton, 13, was impressed by what he saw.
"I think it's all good," he said, looking around in the game room. "And the games are really cool."
What he and others saw is a big change from the layout and amenities found at any of the other 212 Beef 'O' Brady stores scattered throughout the Southeast and Midwest.
Since 1985 when Beef's opened its first store in Brandon, the restaurants have been touted as family sports bars. With an Irish pub-like atmosphere, signature burgers, chicken wings, variety of on-tap beers and sporting events aired on multiple TV screens, customers of various ages became regulars.
"It's not that Beef 'O' Brady's wasn't already family friendly, but we thought it would be nicer for families if they were not facing the bar. But we didn't want to put up walls," said Elliott, a Carrollwood resident who has spent 33 years in the food service business.
The prototype is corporately owned, and some or all of its amenities could be incorporated into existing individually owned franchises if the owners choose, Elliott said. Future franchises will be designed as the prototype.
Why did the company choose Temple Terrace for its full-scale Beef's 2.0?
"We've been working on this for 18 months and through our market research found that Temple Terrace is very family oriented," Elliott said. "And it was the only area around that didn't have a Beef 'O' Brady's."
The move coincides with the Beef's strategy to update the business and open in new markets, including airports and overseas, Elliott said.
Joyce McKenzie can be reached at email@example.com.