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[INTERVIEW] Wolfgang’s steaks speak for themselves, says CEO

[THE INVESTOR] Wolfgang’s Steakhouse in Seoul is an unusually large restaurant, especially for the upscale Cheongdam-dong area of Seoul. Step inside, past the mahogany reception desk and the main dining hall seems to spread out endlessly, with countless tables covered in white tablecloths. Overhead, private dining rooms line the second floor.

 
Peter Zwiener, head of Wolfgang’s Steakhouse / Wolfgang‘s Steakhouse
Peter Zwiener, head of Wolfgang’s Steakhouse / Wolfgang‘s Steakhouse


“Our Seoul branch is about twice the size of some of our other restaurants,” said Peter Zwiener, who heads the franchise, on a recent trip to Seoul. He said that the restaurant in Seoul needed more room to accommodate Koreans’ preference for private dining spaces.

The son of Wolfgang Zwiener, the former investment banker says his goal is to bring the classic New York-style steakhouse ambience and its quality beef to Seoul. His father had created the restaurant after 40 years working as the wait staff at one of New York’s most famous steakhouses.

“Serving prime beef, that’s what Wolfgang’s is all about,” he said, adding that 75 percent of the steakhouse’s revenue comes from selling beef.

All of the steaks at Wolfgang’s are U.S. Department of Agriculture-graded prime beef cuts -- a point that Zwiener emphasized repeatedly.

The signature steak on the menu, the porterhouse steak for two, costs 19,800 won ($17.50) for 100 grams. The steak weighs 1 kilogram, which means it costs 198,000 won.

“We have a reputation of trying to be value-driven. We have to charge a certain price because you are getting the best meat that money can buy, at least if you think U.S. beef is the best, which I do,” he said.

Wolfgang’s offers a set menu for diners who want to taste the dry-aged steak but find the price a bit daunting. The set costs 220,000 won for two and includes an appetizer, steak, a side menu and dessert.

Zwiener mentioned that the steakhouse in Seoul has been well-received by locals. It has been a year since it opened and the restaurant sees a steady stream of customers.

“At lunchtime, during the weekdays, we’ll get a business crowd or people shopping around this area. At dinnertime we get business people, families, people celebrating birthdays, anniversaries … you always hear a little ‘Happy Birthday’ song somewhere in the background,” he said.

Zwiener visits all of his global branches once every three months. He said that his team is now looking for ways to add some Korean flair to Wolfgang’s Cheongdam branch.

“We’re also looking into adapting some of the meat dishes, just for lunch, because we don’t want to lose our identity,” he said. “But we’re investigating making some meat dishes with USDA beef in Korean style.”

For more information about Wolfgang’s Steakhouse in Seoul, visit wolfgangssteakhouse.co.kr.

By Won Ho-jung / The Korea Herald (hjwon@heraldcorp.com)
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