A Baltimore-based smorgasbord restaurant chain is redesigning four area eateries, hoping to beat stiff competition from national chains.
By the end of the year, Horn & Horn Buffets in Essex, Westminster and Glen Burnie will adopt the concept and name of Cactus Willie's Steak and Buffet Bakery, a Hanover, Pa.-based all-you-can-eat restaurant.
Horn & Horn currently serves ham, fish, ribs, fried chicken, vegetables, and offers pasta and salad bars and desserts. After the renovation and name change, it will also feature steak and a fresh bakery.
The remodeling will also give the restaurants the ambience they have lacked, said Bob Katz, president of the privately held Horn & Horn and a managing partner in Cactus Willie's, which is owned by Brett Austin who will share a percentage of the business from the new restaurants with Katz. "It'll take the hustle and bustle out of the buffet experience."
The conversion will take place in Westminster on May 1; in Essex on Sept. 1; and in Glen Burnie on Dec. 1. It has not been decided if the Horn & Horn in Bel Air will take on the new name and design, Katz said.
The redesign has had some success at a Horn & Horn on Cromwell Bridge Road in Towson, he said. The restaurant underwent a $200,000 renovation and re-opened as Maryland's first Cactus Willie's in October.
"Horn & Horn has gone about 12 years without change. We were a little old and a little tired," Katz said. "We've always had a lot of name recognition, but I'm not sure it transferred into customer visits.
"We needed major remodeling, and we also wanted to see if there were any concepts we needed to embrace," he said.
The change is in response to the national buffet-style restaurant chains such as Golden Corral Restaurant and Old Country Buffet that have opened in the Baltimore area in the last three years, Katz said.
GCI Corp., a Baltimore-based company that owns two area Golden Corral franchises, opened its first restaurant on Eastern Avenue in 1995 and another in Glen Burnie in 1996. There are plans to open a third in the Baltimore area, said Kathy List, GCI's marketing director.
"Horn & Horn has been around for a long time, but the Baltimore area is doing very well for us," List said. "We have steak and that's what the Cactus Willie's concept is all about. I guess Horn & Horn is trying to keep up with customer demand."
Horn & Horn has been a Baltimore mainstay since 1908, when it opened on East Baltimore Street. In 1955, Katz's family business, the White Coffee Pot Family Inns Inc., bought the downtown restaurant and expanded to other sites.
At its height, Horn & Horn consisted of six buffets in Maryland, one each in Virginia and Pennsylvania, and three cafeterias in Baltimore County and Baltimore City.
Today, the chain has five buffets in the Baltimore metropolitan area and 350 employees.
Pub Date: 3/31/98