Forget everything you know about Kansas City-style versus Texas-Style—churrasco-style Brazilian barbecue is about to blow your meat-loving mind if Fogo de Chao has anything to say about it.
Churrasco (which roughly translates from the Portuguese for “barbecue”) is a highly specialized form of meat preparation from Southern Brazil, with origins in the gaucho culture of the Pampa region. All types of protein (including beef, lamb, chicken and pork) are cooked rotisserie-style over an open fire of wood or coal, then sliced directly from the spit.
In Brazil (and more recently, the US), this age-old practice has taken shape in restaurant form through rodizio (all you can eat) churrascarias, where “meat waiters” (passadores) prepare and slice this Brazilian-style barbecue table side in round after round for a fixed price. (One curious version of rodizio culture combines churrasco with all-you-can-eat sushi.)
If their recently filed IPO is any indication, fast casual churrasco chain Fogo de Chao will be expanding Brazilian barbecue to a neighborhood near you in the not-too-distant future.
Fogo de Chao opened its first Dallas store in 1997 and since has expanded to 26 sites across the US and 9 in Brazil with further expansion plans which include, “…the long-term potential for over 100 new domestic sites and additional new restaurants internationally.” (The 16,000 square foot Manhattan location opened in 2013 is a three-story whopper.) The company currently reports $19 million cash in hand, and aims to raise $75 million.
The restaurant plans to attract and retain repeat customers by combining “luxurious” environs with a downright gluttonous menu. Guests pay a fixed rate ($59.50) for a continuous stream of meats, vegetables and fish over the course of the evening. In the IPO, Fogo de Chao explains the appeal of the dining process:
[pullquote]”We believe that we offer our guests an upscale, approachable, and friendly atmosphere in elegant dining rooms that is complemented by the personalized, interactive experience with our gaucho chefs. [Fogo de Chao has] a continuous style of service, where each of our gaucho chefs approaches guests at their table with various selections of meat, providing our guests with the cut, temperature and quantity they desire. During these interactions, our gaucho chefs learn each guest’s specific preferences and are able to tailor their dining experience accordingly…” [/pullquote]
The steakhouse aims to appeal to a wide range of diners by sprinkling offerings for vegetarians, gluten-free diners and even children into the meat-heavy menu. Side dishes like caramelized bananas, pao de queijo (cheese bread), and polenta as well as familiar steakhouse desserts (chocolate mousse cake, creme brulee) to round out the meal.
Ready or not, the rise of the fast casual Brazilian steakhouse is headed our way.